A Good Samaritan on his way home from work helped a Bedford County, Virginia, sheriff’s deputy apprehend a suspect during an altercation.
Bedford County resident Neil Ellis, 38, was on his way home one afternoon from an out-of-state job when he saw a fight breaking out between a deputy and someone he was trying to arrest on Moneta Road.
Ellis instinctively pulled over and got out of his car to assist the deputy.
“It was kind of automatic. It was, ‘I’m not going to sit here and watch this happen,’” he told The News & Advance.
Ellis was initially worried he might be perceived as a threat by the deputy, so he made it clear he was trying to help him.
“I didn’t want to get too close and scare him. He’s pursuing the bad guy, and I’m pursuing him. The guy took off toward the right, and that’s when I yelled to [Sergeant Keith] Peterson that he had backup,” Ellis said.
Ellis, along with a few other civilians, formed a small group as they helped the sergeant pursue the suspect during a chase that lasted about a half-mile.
“It was fairly cold, and running that far reminded me I need to run more often, probably. By the time we caught him, I was glad he didn’t run any further, because I was tired of running,” Ellis joked. He was not exactly prepared for the sudden intense activity after driving for hours coming home from Tennessee.
“I wasn’t quite ready for that, but I did what I had to do,” he said.
When they caught up to the suspect, Ellis grabbed one of the suspect’s arms and the deputy grabbed the other.
With Ellis’ help, the deputy was able to cuff the suspect, who continued to resist arrest. While awaiting backup from the sheriff’s office, Ellis and the deputy worked to keep the situation under control.
“As the saying goes, the only thing that it takes for evil to win is for good people to do nothing. There were plenty of people sitting in their cars and pulling out their phones to videotape the altercation for whatever social media platforms they wanted to post it to. But I wasn’t going to sit idly by and let evil win,” he said.
On April 1, Ellis was honored by the sheriff’s office with an award for Outstanding Citizenship.
“For that brief time, I got to experience what a lot of our officers experience on a daily basis: that you are willing to risk your well-being to help somebody that you didn’t know. That doesn’t make me an outstanding citizen, because the police do that daily,” said Ellis, who is mindful of the dangers of the job because his brother is a police officer.
Peterson said the incident began while responding to a call about a vehicle accident. When he approached the man involved in the crash, he was assaulted.
“We began to scuffle, and he started throwing punches. We started fighting in the middle of Moneta Road. He tried to grab my leg, tried to push me onto the ground, punched me in the side of the head,” Peterson said.
When the suspect began to flee, Peterson pursued, as he knew backup from the Virginia State Police would soon arrive. Peterson said when he heard Ellis behind him, he initially thought it was another officer, but was later surprised to find civilians helping him out.
“I realized none of them were police officers. They were all citizens,” Peterson said. “Pretty much right then, my fellow officers arrived.”
Peterson said community support means a lot to police officers.
“The community support is so important, in all aspects of our profession,” Peterson said. “Knowing that people in the community support what we do, support us as law enforcement officers to the point where they could potentially put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe, I mean, that’s huge.”
Bedford County Sheriff Mike Miller expressed his gratitude to the civilians.
“We always know that our citizens have our back,” Miller said.