TORONTO – An elderly Pennsylvania man says he was minding his own business when he noticed a security guard wrestling with an alleged shoplifter at a suburban Pittsburgh mall this past weekend – and decided to lend a hand.
Seventy-four-year-old Charlie Burton was at the Washington Crown Center mall on Saturday, taking part in the Washington County Sportsmen’s Show. He was selling homemade pens, some of which are made of old shell casings, when he went to grab a bite to eat.
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“I was going to the food court to get something to eat, and I went over there and there was this officer,” Burton told KDKA News in Pittsburgh. “He had [the suspect] up against the counter there, and I saw he was in trouble.”
So Burton, who used to teach karate, decided to intervene. He grabbed the alleged thief by the arm and helped the security guard wrestle him to the ground.
“It happened so quickly,” Burton said in a separate interview with the Washington Observer-Reporter. “I just grabbed his arm and started twisting it. The security guard had him by the other arm and was trying to take him down.”
“It was quite a tangle with the fella because he was so strong. I don’t think anyone could’ve taken him down by themselves.”
The suspect, 29-year-old Jonathan Fekete, had reportedly just made off with over $200 worth of clothes from a nearby Macy’s when he began his scuffle with security.
In short order other bystanders, including an off-duty police officer, came to assist the pair and detain Fekete until police arrived.
And the courageous senior citizen’s act did not go unnoticed. State Senator Camera Bartolotta happened to be nearby, and snapped the above photo of the 74-year-old holding the alleged thief down.
“He had his hand and twisted it and was not letting go,” Bartolotta told the Observer-Reporter Monday. “How dumb do you have to be to shoplift in a mall completely packed with sportsmen?”
As for Burton, he suffered a cut on his hand but was otherwise unhurt. He said everyone was appreciative of his help – everyone, that is, but his wife.
“She didn’t think it was a smart thing someone my age to do,” Burton joked.