A sunny, summer day, a good day for a grandmother to push her one year old grandchild in a stroller along Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica. Then the unthinkable occurred. It was shortly after 3:30 in the afternoon of July 11. A man tried to take the baby from the stroller. The baby was strapped into the stroller and the man could not get the baby out. He then began to try to choke the baby and to tear the baby’s clothing. The grandmother defended her grandchild. The man attacked the grandmother and punched her in the face, all the while continuing to try to get the baby.
Then the obvious, the thinkable happened. A man who was also walking along Wilshire Boulevard came to the rescue of the grandmother and the grandbaby. A Good Samaritan who heeded the biblical command “to show mercy.” He was able to keep the attacking man away from the baby but not without being attacked and injured himself.
I say the obvious, the thinkable, because he did what was right, he came to their aid. So how could it be that there was only one person who came to the aid of the grandmother and the baby? They were, after all, on Wilshire Boulevard near Centinela Avenue in Santa Monica. It was the middle of the afternoon on a nice day. Where were the people in the nearby stores or the other people passing by on the sidewalk? What about the many people driving by in their cars? Thank goodness for the man who came to their rescue. But how could it be that only one person stepped forward? The grandmother and the baby needed help. Their protector needed help.
There were four 911 calls, and maybe more, to the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD). The police arrived at 3:41 p.m., within three minutes of the first 911 call, a longer than usual SMPD response time due to the beginning of rush hour traffic.
The attacking man, now officially the suspect, physically attacked the first officer on the scene. They struggled, other officers arrived, and the suspect was arrested. He was taken to the Santa Monica Jail where he was booked for attempted murder, kidnapping, child cruelty, and assault, as well as other charges. Bail was set at $500,000.
The police did their job and did it well. The anonymous protector, our very own anonymous hero, did the right thing and did it without wanting recognition or reward. I am grateful for the presence of the rescuer, for his mercy, for his willingness to act and to protect the grandmother and the baby.
Not every one of us is strong enough, or well enough, or able to take on an attacker such as this suspect. And safety is always the first concern. But there are actions we can all take. First, we can and should call 911 and let the attacker know we have called. If needed in order to be safe, stand on the other side of the street and yell out that you have called 911. Second, be a witness. Watch and remember so that you can give information when asked. If possible, be part of a group of people all calling 911 and all letting the attacker know you are all calling and all watching.
The SMPD reports, “Many suspects who engage in assaultive behavior, will stop if they know they are being watched by many who are also in the process of reporting such activity.” Again, the SMPD emphasizes, “Safety for everyone is the main concern.”
Societies have myths and heroes going back as far as history can record. New myths and new heroes are continuously created. Many of the adults who witnessed this assault grew up with stories of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Obi Wan Kenobi, and Yoda. Many are now reading Harry Potter and know Dumbledore and Sirius Black. Many know Superman, Batman, and Spiderman. We need and love these myths. We admire, even idolize heroes.
We can’t all physically fight the forces of evil. But we don’t need to be able to physically fight to do the right thing. Heroes come in all forms. They share qualities of empathy and mercy that move them to take action. It is their actions that define them.
Martin Luther King Jr., a real American hero, said “Morality is like a muscle, if you don’t exercise it, if you don’t do the right thing every time you get a chance, it will atrophy and, when you need it, it won’t be there for you to use.”
I am thankful the grandmother, the baby, and the man who came to their aid are recovering well. I hope that we, as a community will always be able to rely on each other when help is needed. I believe it is a wonderful gift to be in the right place at the right time to be able to help another person. It is a gift to the people involved and to the entire community.