David Mendez

Residents tackle RB robbery suspect

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Mike Wetzel( right) stands aside after Redondo Beach Police arrest a suspected robber in South Redondo. Wetzel and another man tackled the robber with the help of other residents who served as spotters during a short chase. Photo courtesy Mike Wetzel

by David Mendez

A robbery outside of a South Redondo bank was foiled last week by a group of Redondo Beach residents took it upon themselves to catch and restrain the suspected criminal until police arrived.

“It’s an example of community members working together, stepping up and taking notice,” said Mike Wetzel, who helped tackle and restrain the suspect.

Shortly after noon on Friday, Oct. 6, Wetzel was finishing up a transaction at Chase Bank, at 1600 S. Pacific Coast Highway, when he noticed a suspicious man walking his way.

Wetzel said he turned his gaze to the man, who then turned away.

Just before reaching his wife and his car, Wetzel heard a woman screaming from a nearby  parking lot, “Call the cops, he took my money.”

“I see that guy running from the bank, up toward Smart and Final,” Wetzel said. “I just started chasing him.”

About that time, a second, unidentified man who appeared to have just left a nearby gym joined Wetzel in the chase.

“We’re headed for the Smart and Final to catch him, and there are people at the front of the store signaling, one lady whistling, all pointing toward the front of the store,” Wetzel said. “

The two men then headed off the suspected robber and tackled him.

Redondo Beach Police arrived soon after and arrested the suspect, 29 year old Nicholas Smith, of Torrance.

“While we don’t encourage people to actually chase and tackle a suspect, we appreciate the help…[but] it’s the kind of personal choice that each individual has to live with — we don’t want people to take unnecessary risks,” RBPD Lt. Todd Heywood said.

“We prefer that people be the best possible witness they can [when they call],” Heywood said. “Give us the best possible description, the license plate, tell us where they’re going and if they can keep them in sight, keep us on the line.”

Wetzel, a local neighborhood watch block captain, is used to working with the police. He and his neighbors have coordinated with RBPD to catch teenagers who drive recklessly.

“If a guy looks dangerous and armed, I won’t put myself in danger. I’ll follow him, but I’ll be taking cover,” Wetzel said. “But he was running and going to get away…I’m not going to stand for that in our town.”

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