One moment, he had a drink to his lips. The next, a pistol being leveled in his face.
That was Derek Hudson’s experience Monday night at The Tap Room Pub & Grub in the Village Corners center at Sylvan Avenue and Claus Road.
After a gunman who masked his face with a sweat shirt rushed into the pub and fired a couple of shots into the ceiling, he started to aim his weapon at Hudson. “He was walking down the aisle, or the bar, and as soon as he got to me, we made eye contact and he went to put the gun up in my face. So what else are you gonna do?” Hudson, a retired Army lieutenant, said outside The Tap Room on Tuesday.
When he heard the gunman fire the pistol, right before lowering it, Hudson could tell it was an airsoft or pellet gun. “But still, you’re looking down the muzzle.”
Given his military service, Hudson called it instinctive to grab the gunman and the gun. After so many years of being in what he called “What are you gonna do?” situations, the Modesto resident said, “As soon as I see a gun, I’ll go for it.”
In getting the gun away from the would-be robber, Hudson ended up on the ground. The suspect, later identified by police as 18-year-old Justyn Wesson, tried to run out. But off-duty Modesto Fire Department Capt. John Walker “took him down,” Hudson said, “and then all the other patrons jumped in as well, to hold him down. But my main concern was getting control of the gun.”
The takedown at The Tap Room concluded Wesson’s robbery spree at three other businesses in the center, police said, which began about 9:40 p.m. Those businesses are the Arco am/pm minimart, Taqueria Carolina and Village Wine & Spirits.
Walker said he happened to be looking outside as “the guy comes through the door pretty fast-paced, with a sweat shirt wrapped around his face.”
The gunman got to the center of the bar area, said something that was muffled by the sweat shirt and fired a couple of shots into the air, Walker said.
The firefighter agreed that the weapon didn’t sound loud enough to be a firearm, “but at that point, you don’t know.” In the time they had to do something, “I don’t think it changed the way we reacted,” Walker said. With the oath he took as a firefighter, and with Hudson’s military service, he said it was their “due vigilance to the community” to subdue the robber.
In a Facebook post Tuesday morning, the Modesto Police Department thanked Hudson and Walker for taking the lead and stepping in to detain Wesson. “Hudson and Walker were thanked for their quick action and were given the MPD Citizen Recognition coin by our officers,” the post reads. “These men are a great example of citizens taking action to protect themselves and their community while being in the right place at the right time.”
The teen faces three charges of robbery and one of attempted robbery. He remained in custody Tuesday morning.