SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Three men came to the rescue of an elderly woman at a Sarasota church on Thursday.
Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin and two construction workers subdued an “aggressive and unstable” man who tried to rob the woman at St. Martha Catholic Church at about 12:30 p.m.
“Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt and the guy was unarmed,” said Barwin, a former police officer. “My training from years ago kicked in and with the help of the two construction workers, together, we were able to subdue and hold him until officers with the Sarasota Police Department arrived. Clearly, he was very unstable. I’d like to thank both men who jumped in to help. It was a team effort to subdue the guy.”
Barwin said he was bicycling to lunch near Orange Avenue and Second Street when he observed a shirtless man walking down the middle of Second Avenue toward oncoming traffic, screaming and pounding on car windows as vehicles passed.
At least one driver pulled over to call for help. As Barwin called police, the man made his way toward St. Martha at the same time a woman exited the church. Barwin saw the man follow her around the corner into the church courtyard, when loud shouting ensued, and the man allegedly attacked the woman.
Barwin jumped off his bicycle and tried to detain the suspect by stepping in front of him and calmly talking to him, including asking if he was OK. As the man tried to leave, two good Samaritan construction workers arrived, having heard the commotion, and together the three men subdued the individual until SPD arrived a few minutes later.
Jason Perez, 28, of Sarasota, was arrested and charged with attempted robbery and battery on a victim over 65 years of age.
Barwin has been a public administrator for over 30 years. In the early 1980s, he was a police officer in Warren, Michigan, where he received law enforcement training.
“It all came right back to me,” said Barwin. “We just worked together to do the right thing and get this guy off the street. And, from what I observed, he would benefit from mental health and substance abuse treatment programs. This incident highlights the need for increased funding for treatment programs in Sarasota, the state and throughout the country. I travel the country quite a bit and it’s becoming more common to see delusional individuals wandering the streets in cities big and small. It’s a real problem which needs to be addressed with appropriate funding. I continue to call upon everyone and anyone to partner to address the very real and challenging problem.”
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