This incident happened a few years ago in Belgium, on the Brussels subway. A purse snatcher tries to get away after scoring some loot and a wannabe hero tries to stop him. Here’s what happened:
- I applaud the guy for trying to stop the purse snatcher. It’s a noble act and takes courage, which many people seem to lack these days. So regardless what you think of the guy, he stood up when others didn’t. Tip of the hat to him for that.
- Unfortunately for him, stopping an armed thief isn’t something most people have a lot of training or experience with. So trying it out of the blue can backfire on you, as it does here. You should take that into account before making such a decision. The criminals usually have a lot more experience with violence than you do, so you’re behind the curve already.
- His timing is pretty good though. The purse snatcher is running full tilt and he comes at him out of the cart at a right angle, right before the thief passes his position. As a result, the thief tries to evade the tackle but can’t get away in time. That’s the end of the good news…
- Personally, I’d have tried to trip the thief instead of trying to grab him. This usually leaves you on your feet while the other guy does a face-plant. If you’re quick and it goes well, you can be on him before he has the time to get back up again. At the very least, you can decide to run when you see he has a knife…
- Another point: the thief didn’t seem to have the knife out during the purse snatch. You can see him reaching into his right jacket pocket just as he starts running. So the odds are good the hero didn’t know the guy had a knife when he saw the theft in the cart and decided to intervene. He probably wouldn’t have tried wrestling techniques had he known that he was up against a guy with a knife.
- This brings us to the tactics of the fight. The flying grab worked well enough but afterward it turns into a big mess. We’re missing a few seconds in the video but you see the hero grab the purse snatcher in a headlock/guillotine choke. Right away, the thief pumps out 5-6 stabs to the gut and side. At least one of those stabs came really close to the kidneys, which can be a killing strike.
- It takes all these stabs for the hero to realize he’s hurt and let go. Fortunately for him, the criminal runs away instead of adding a final attack to finish the job. Regardless, the damage is done by the time the man realizes he’s hurt. Even though he lets go, it’s too late and all he can do is hope others help him survive. He’s lucky in that a bunch of bystanders, subway security, and paramedics are there quick enough. Had he been in a less busy or public location, he could have bled out before help arrived…
When you decide to intervene in a crime, be aware of the potential harm that may come upon you. If you do so anyway, consider your opponent armed and willing to use his weapons. Assuming otherwise is naive and can get you killed. The man who intervened in this incident was taken to the hospital in critical condition. I don’t know if he made it and if he did, what kind of lasting physical problems he now suffers from. Or if he would do it all again knowing what he knows now.
Like I said before, he should be commended for trying to stand up to the thief. Had he been successful, we all would have gone Rah-Rah! over how the bad guy got what was coming to him. So there’s no need to chastise him now for failing to get the job done. The only thing you can do here is try to learn from the incident and hopefully do better if a similar incident comes your way.