By EMMALEE C. TORISK
Ryan Dickerson said he simply acted on instinct Monday night when he disarmed and pinned down a 21-year-old Youngstown man who police say tried to rob the McDonald’s on McCartney Road where Dickerson works.
“I wouldn’t say that I was scared, but I could say that my heart was beating,” the 19-year-old Campbell resident said. “I could definitely feel it.”
Dickerson said the suspect, whom police identified as Alvin Ward, entered the restaurant about 11:30 p.m., dressed in all black and wearing a ski mask. With a gun drawn, he demanded that the restaurant’s employees take him to the safe, and that’s when Dickerson knew it was now or never.
Dickerson grabbed the gun, which the suspect had stashed in his pocket in order to retrieve money from the safe, and was surprised when part of it caught on Ward’s jacket, breaking the gun into several pieces.
It was a metal cap gun made to look like the real thing.
After briefly wrestling with the suspect, Dickerson was able to put Ward into a choke hold. At that point, when Ward knew he couldn’t move, he began to cry and plead with him, Dickerson said.
“He said, ‘I got a 4-year-old. I got rent due,’” he said. “I said, ‘Dude, that’s what a job is for.’”
As soon as the suspect spotted police, though, he “jolted a little bit forward” and broke free of Dickerson’s grasp, fleeing the scene on foot.
Carlos Eggleston of the Youngstown Police Department was directly in front of the restaurant at that moment, however, and was able to chase the suspect until he jumped over a nearby fence.
Eggleston’s description of the suspect, which was broadcast over the police radios, helped officers from Campbell and Struthers catch up with Ward shortly afterward on Wilson Avenue, about a mile from the McDonald’s, said Sgt. Drew Rauzan, Campbell’s interim police chief.
“The entire city of Campbell owes Eggleston a debt of gratitude,” Rauzan said. “Without Eggleston’s key observations, we probably would not have apprehended the robber so quickly.”
He added that Monday’s incident was the second robbery in just six months at that location. In addition, while Rauzan said he’d never recommend that anyone intervene in an armed robbery, as no amount of money is worth someone’s life, Dickerson is, without a doubt, a “genuine grass-roots hero.”
“His actions were heroic and an act of uncommon valor,” he said.
But Dickerson is just happy and thankful that what was a bad situation didn’t turn out even worse.
“I hope the guy takes the time in jail to think. If he wants to take care of a kid, he has to do it the hard way. There are no easy routes, like taking a fake gun into a store,” he said. “I won’t stand for that.”