TAMPA (FOX 13) - Tampa police are praising a handful of passersby who rushed to the aid of a TPD officer as he was engaged in physical combat with an 18-year-old burglary suspect.
The Tampa Police Department says the heroic actions of two passersby helped its officer deescalate a situation that could have become much worse.
Officer Michael Collins was responding to a disturbance call Wednesday afternoon at the Econo Lodge on N Dale Mabry Highway, near Himes Avenue, when he met Luis Manual Vila, 18, of Tampa. TPD says Vila matched the description given for a young man who had taken a manager's key ring and was wandering through the hotel.
Officer Collins tried to take detain Vila, and a scuffle ensued. The officer also tried to deploy his Taser, but TPD says it had "little effect on the suspect," who also managed to hit Officer Vila. The two fell to the ground during the altercation and Vila allegedly kept hitting Officer Collins.
As the two struggled on the side of Himes Ave., cab driver Ray Freeman saw what was happening and ran to the officer's aid. As the situation began to draw more attention, a delivery woman, Dolores Lyle also ran to help the officer. She grabbed the suspect's feet to keep him from standing up, then sat on his legs.
As Freeman and Lyle helped restrain him, Officer Collins was able to secure handcuffs on Vila and, within minutes, a second officer arrived to back him up. By this time, other citizens had gathered to help and the situation was under control.
TPD says Officer Collins is a 27-year veteran of the department. He was taken to the hospital to be checked out.
Police say Freeman was also hit by the suspect during the ruckus, but will be okay.
Vila now faces charges of battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest with violence, battery, and burglary.
Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward said, "It is gratifying to see citizens willing to get involved. It's a miracle that no one was seriously injured. This could have ended tragically. Officer Collins showed tremendous restraint, and I can't say enough about the two citizens who aided one of our officers. They were not afraid to get involved. This is a true example of law enforcement and the community working together to keep our city safe."