COLUMBIA — Rick Blank, 42, was in the middle of a sales call Friday afternoon when police were chasing a man outside. Blank caught a glimpse of the man and headed outside, moving to within 20-30 feet of the man.
Blank only hesitated for a moment. “I didn’t want to tackle a customer," Blank said later.
Blank grabbed the man, threw him to the ground and put him in a chokehold in the sales lot of Joe Machens Ford on Vandiver Drive, where Blank works.
“I was choking him from behind so he wouldn’t move, and he was slapping his hand like he was wanting to give up,” said Blank, a former high school football player.
He considered the possibility that the man was carrying a weapon only as an afterthought.
“I’m glad he didn’t have a gun,” Blank said.
The Columbia Police Department had an outstanding warrant for Eric Jackson, 28, of Columbia. He had been arrested in July on suspicion of third-degree domestic assault and failed to appear in court.
Officers spotted Jackson outside of Country Kitchen, said Sgt. Eric White. When Jackson saw the officers, he took off. They arrested him after Blank's tackle.
A police officer on foot was just a few steps behind, and a patrol car arrived immediately after. “They were right on top of it,” Blank said.
Afterward, Blank went back to work. He had only been gone a few minutes. "I was kind of busy," he said. "I had to get this guy a price back on the car.”
Blank called it a normal day at work, with the exception of helping to catch a fugitive. However, Mayor Darwin Hindman called it “an act of heroism” in an e-mail to local news media.
Friday was not the first time Blank assisted in apprehending a fugitive. In 2005, while living in Jefferson City, he helped catch a suspect who was chased into his backyard.
Blank was on his back deck when he saw a person running, followed by a deputy sheriff. Concerned the suspect would enter his home, Blank locked his doors.
“As I was locking my downstairs door, the sheriff was already back there, and he went to look in my backyard and asked me to look in my uncle’s backyard. When I turned around, (the suspect) was standing right behind me, so I just knocked him to the ground,” Blank said.
For his efforts in 2005, he received a letter signed by the Cole County sheriff and deputy sheriff. Blank saved the letter, which he still has.
Although Blank did help the police, White recommended that citizens not get involved in situations where the police are pursuing a suspect.
“I’m glad no one was hurt,” White said.
Jackson is being held in the Boone County Jail on a $20,000 bail.