Watch robbery victim, Good Samaritan discuss purse snatching incident
An act of aggression and greed was quickly upstaged by an act of bravery and selflessness when a sandwich shop worker stepped in to help a single mother being robbed on McHenry Avenue.
Around noon Friday, Victoria FitzGerald was pushing her 3-year-old son in a stroller to Ike’s Love & Sandwich Shop, where they’d planned to have lunch, when she was approached by a man who asked her for directions to Safeway.
As she pointed north up McHenry, the man grabbed her purse from the bottom of her stroller and began to run. In his haste, the man tripped and FitzGerald’s purse went flying, she said.
“I grabbed my purse, but then he raced to pull it away from me and we were both pulling on it and I just thought, I don’t have the strength, he is going to get my purse,” FitzGerald said. “Then I stuck my foot in the loop of my purse … and I started screaming for help, and that’s when the man ran away and Julian came out of Ike’s and went running after him.”
Julian Surall had been inside the shop when he saw FitzGerald struggling with the man. He ran outside and was followed by two customers.
“The lady was with her kid; that is the thing that really caught me by surprise,” Surall said. “Broad daylight and she was with her child … so disrespectful.”
Surall said he went one way and the customers went the other as they tried to track down the suspect. From the shop at McHenry and Briggsmore avenues, Surall ran south to Denny’s, where he spotted the suspect.
The suspect ran across McHenry and Surall followed, catching sight of him as he ducked into Modesto Advanced Imaging Center on Coolidge Avenue.
The suspect had gone into the bathroom. Surall told employees what happened and to call police. As he waited, one of the customers who’d gone in search of the suspect showed up at the imaging center.
The suspect came out of the bathroom, and Surall and the customer wrestled him to the ground, holding him there for several minutes until police arrived.
“The key is to hold somebody’s wrist and they can’t really move,” said 24-year-old Surall, who in high school played football and basketball and ran track.
Stephen Bartlett, 34, was arrested on suspicion of robbery and remains in Stanislaus County Jail on $50,000 bail.
After the ordeal, FitzGerald went to Ike’s to thank Surall. She knew he worked at a sandwich shop and he knew she always ordered vegan, but other than that they were strangers.
“I said to him, ‘You’re a hero,’ and he said, ‘Nah,’” FitzGerald said. Then she gave him a hug.
“Most people would not help,” she said. “He’s so young. That’s what really shocked me.”
Surall agrees that many people in his generation probably would have just videotaped the incident but said, “I’ve always been like that. That’s the way our parents raised us … If you can help somebody, you do that.”