Police officers tend to be on the receiving end of thank-yous for their efforts in deescalating criminal activity, but an unlikely Samaritan turned the tides in Orinda.
Jason Dewitt, a private investigator, was sipping on a cup of coffee at a nearby restaurant when he noticed an officer entangled in a violent struggle with a thief one afternoon nearly two weeks ago.
"I saw the suspect swing on the officer and that's when they both kind of went to the ground," Dewitt said.
Dewitt jumped into the scuffle, managed to grab the suspect's free hand and complete the handcuffing.
Prior to Dewitt's arrival, Officer Joe Ladner chased after the suspicious man, who had just left a CVS store. The store has been the target of a rash of shoplifiting recently, police said.
Ladner demanded that the 49-year-od suspect stop running.
The suspect promptly stopped, cocked his fist and punched the officer in the face. Both parties then engaged in a physical brawl and the suspect repeatedly refused the officer's arrest attempt.
Dewitt ran to see if Ladner needed help. The officer told him to help control the suspect so that he can take him into custody.
The Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office expressed gratitude to Dewitt in the form of a personal letter.
"The actions you took were nothing less than selfless and courageous," Shawn Welch, President of the Contra County Deputy Sheriff's Association, said in the letter. "Your actions are an incredible reminder of our community's appreciation and support for our services."
In addition to helping the destressed officer, Welch also applauded Dewitt for preventing any further harm to the suspect.
NBC Bay Area's Elyce Kirchner contributed to this report.