It was 8:15 p.m. on April 27 when Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Roger Brown approached the exit of Wal-Mart, car keys jingling in one hand, a single plastic bag swinging from the other. In the bag was an assortment of frozen fruit that would become his breakfast smoothie before he headed to work at the Command, Control and Communications Engineering Center on Base Portsmouth, Virginia, bright and early the next morning.
Even before the doors slid completely open, Brown said he heard sounds of a scuffle and a voice booming, "Get down! Get down!" The sliding doors framed a chaotic scene: two police officers were wrestling with a man who had pinned one of the officers to the ground and was punching him in the face. "It took me a second or two to realize what was happening," said Brown. "Then I kicked off my flip-flops, threw my keys and my groceries down, and took action."
One of the police officers was working part time at Wal-Mart that evening when he recognized Clinton Pickens, a 32 year old suspected of burglarizing five local businesses between April 19 and 25. The officer spoke with Pickens until another officer from the Portsmouth Police Department arrived to help arrest the suspect. "As soon as the second officer got there, the suspect became violent and started assaulting the first officer," said Detective Misty Holley, public information officer with the Portsmouth Police Department. "He became extremely aggressive."
Brown handled the suspect's aggression by hauling him off the police officer and helping the officers pin him down. Another good Samaritan rushed over to assist Brown and the officers. Brown said the individual restrained the suspect's legs while the officers placed him in handcuffs. "It all happened quickly, and I didn't catch his name," said Brown. "But he was a great help."
Detective Holley said both the good Samaritan and Brown were instrumental in subduing the suspect and minimizing the police officer's injuries. "The officer sustained minor facial injuries and bruising," Holley said. "If Petty Officer Brown and the other good Samaritan hadn't reacted so quickly, it could have ended up much worse."
Quick reaction time and poise under pressure are traits cultivated and often found within the ranks of the U.S. Coast Guard. Brown, who has served in the Coast Guard since 2003, said he originally joined looking for a change and a way to find direction in his life. While he now works as an electronics technician and provides technical support for Coast Guard cutter navigation systems, Brown previously served as a boarding team member aboard the 210-foot Cutter Resolute out of St. Petersburg, Florida.
During his tour aboard the Resolute, Brown participated in law enforcement missions as a boarding team member and underwent countless hours of tactical training – training he said came into play during his scuffle with Pickens. "It's been a while since I've used those techniques," he said. "But you never forget them."
But Brown said you don't need tactical training to come to the aid of police officers or other people in trouble: you just need to act quickly and do what you can. "You've got to look out for your local law enforcement members," said Brown. "You never know when you're going to need their assistance in return. It all comes back around full circle."
This article appears courtesy of Coast Guard News and may be found in its original form here.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.