Pulitzer Prize Winner Foils Bank Robber With Bear Hug

"He just sort of stood there with me. It was one of the weirdest moments of my life."

View Comments ()
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    The security camera photo looks like one man is giving another man a hug, but don't be deceived.  What you are looking at is a take-down of a bank robber in downtown San Jose by a regular Joe-citizen. 

    Kim Komenich, a photographer who won a Pulitzer Prize and now teaches journalism at San Jose State, was running errands earlier this week when he he stumbled upon a bank robbery.  Instead of just watching, Komenich put the robber in a bear hug and held him until police arrived. 

    Hugging It Out (Of a Jam)

    [BAY] Hugging It Out (Of a Jam)
    A San Jose State Professor employs an unusual tactic to stop a crime in progress. (Published Wednesday, Apr 14, 2010)

    "He just sort of stood there with me, and there was this really awkward period there," Komenich said. "This went on for 4-5 minutes. It was one of the wierdest moments of my life."

    This happened Monday at a Wells Fargo at San Fernando and Market streets.  Komenich say he noticed a man who appeared drunk in line ahead of him. The man got loud with the teller, then handed the teller a note. 

    "The teller joked with the guy, saying, 'Is this for real?'" Komenich said. "The guy said, 'Yeah, it's for real.'"

    When he saw the guy put his hand in his pocket, Komenich thought he was going for a gune. So he acted.

    "I just figured, if the guy has a note that says I've got a gun, and he reaches into his pocket, if a time something's going to go bad, now's the time," Komenich said.

    The 53-year-old former newspaper photographer is 6-foot-2 and weighs 260 pounds. He put his size to use and put the would-be robber in a bear hug hold.

    San Jose police do not recommend people do what Komenich did.

    "Getting involved is not something we would recommend," Sgt. Ronnie Lopez told the Mercury News. "There's a variety of different ways this situation could have gone bad." 

    Police identified the robber as 45-year-old Anthony Fernandes. They also nabbed two accomplices police say where working with Fernandes.  They have been identified as 39-year-old Johnnie Dale Gray and 40-year-old Tamara Leeann Kennert.

    Dangerous situations aren't new for Komenich. He won the Pulitzer in 1987, as a photographer for the San Francisco Examiner, for his coverage of the revolution that toppled Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos.