Business owner Ted Vong said he was just looking out for a neighbor when he chased down a man who robbed a nearby flower shop at Platte Avenue and Circle Drive in April of last year. Vong was washing dishes at his burger business, Short Stop, when the owner of the Flowerama store alerted him that he had been robbed at gunpoint and pointed to a man who was fleeing across the parking lot. "Call the police and let them know I'm going to go after this guy," Vong told the owner before taking off in pursuit of the robber with his concealed handgun. He chased the robber for six blocks.
"At 20 yards, I told him to freeze. He turned around and his eyes got really big," Vong recalled.
The suspect kept running, but when he lost steam and stopped, he told Vong, who was pointing a gun at him, to take the shot.
"Not unless you do something to make me have to," Vong told him. He then held the man at gunpoint until police arrived.
"I didn't think, I just ran," Vong said. "The only thing I was thinking about, was 'OK, if this guy doesn't get caught, the next person he robs might not be so lucky.'"
Because of his actions, Vong was one of 20 civilians honored by the Colorado Springs Police Department on Tuesday night at the Stargazers Theatre & Event Center. The awards were presented to both citizens and officers who went beyond what was expected in keeping the community safe, said Colorado Springs spokeswoman Barbara Miller.
Also among the honorees were Glen Emineth, Amanda Harrison and her husband, Staff Sgt. Jarrod Harrison, who all played a part in subduing a man with a knife after he held an store employee hostage. Jarrod Harrison was stabbed twice and had to undergo emergency surgery for his injuries. And Jarrod Harrison wasn't the only active duty soldiers presented an award: Staff Sgt. John C. Palmieri and Lt. Jamie Mueller were honored for rescuing a driver from his wrecked car minutes before a nearby car, already engulfed in flames, exploded. "I figured I had as much chance to help as anyone," said Mueller, who completed physician's assistant training in October.
And Anthony Willis was one five soldiers who came to the aid of two men seriously injured in a rival gang shootout. "I was the first one there," he said. "What motivated me to run toward the shots must have motivated the other soldiers," he said. Others honored included Jean Kraus, named Civilian of the Year for her work with the Colorado Springs Police Department's Community Advancing Public Safety volunteer program.
Department Commendations awards also were presented to 16 officers, including detectives Mark Garcia and Jason Blanscet, whose undercover investigation dismantled one of the largest organized theft rings in the state, police said. Several officers who assisted with Waldo Canyon evacuations and subsequent flood response also were recognized for their service, Two Lifesaving Awards and three Rob Gibson in Excellence in Ethics awards also were presented to officers.