Local 1245 Member Receives Life-Saving Award for Intervening in a Carjacking
When IBEW Local 1245 member Marty Gentles arrived at work on December 6, 2016, he had no idea that he would end up intervening in an attempted carjacking and violent assault.
Gentles, a Parks Gardener for the City of Redding, usually works at City Hall, but on that morning, his working supervisor asked him to help out with a demolition project at Enterprise Park, one of the most popular and highly trafficked parks in the City of Redding.
Gentles was working to remove an old play structure at “Kid’s Kingdom” in preparation for a newly upgraded structure to be installed, when he noticed his supervisor a few yards away, waving to get his attention, and looking very concerned. Gentles quickly went over to see what was the matter, and his supervisor told him that someone was attempting to carjack a pickup truck – while the owner of the truck, and elderly gentleman, was still inside the vehicle.
A Split-Second Decision
After confirming that 9-1-1 had already been called, Gentles approached the scene to see what he could do to help. The two men were engaged in a physical struggle, and Gentles’ first instinct was to grab the vehicle keys and throw them into the bed of the truck.
“There were lots of people around – moms with babies in strollers, some ladies jogging, young people playing Frisbee golf – and I wanted to make sure the truck wasn’t going to start and end up taking off and hitting someone,” Gentles said.
Gentles noticed that the owner of the truck had been physically assaulted by the carjacker; there was an injury on his head that appeared to have been caused by a blunt instrument. Gentles found the weapon – a small baseball bat – and removed it from the vehicle cab as well.
The situation was dangerous, with potentially deadly weapons at hand, but Gentles instinctively knew he needed to get involved.
“Doing the right thing is a split-second decision,” said Gentles. “I knew I couldn’t have lived with myself if someone ended up getting killed.”
As the two men continued to wrestle, the perp grabbed a pen in the truck and attempted to stab the vehicle owner in the face and stomach. Gentles knew the situation could go downhill very quickly, and the police had still not arrived, so he attempted to contact them again using his city employee emergency-access line, but was unable to get anyone on the line.
While Gentles was on the phone, his initial fear came to fruition, as he heard the car’s engine start up.
“I have no idea how that happened, because I had put the car keys in the bed,” said Gentles. “I guess he must have found a second set of keys.”
“I Promise He Won’t Get Away”
Gentles had to act quickly, before the perp had a chance to put the car in gear. Fortunately, the truck was a newer model with a button-operated gear shift, so while the perp attempted to figure out how to put the truck in drive, Gentles physically intervened, neutralizing the man’s left hand to keep him from getting away.
In addition to subduing the perp, Gentles also had to talk down the victim, who was understandably extremely agitated and looking to retaliate.
“I remember the owner of the truck was threatening to stab the perp with a knife, but I told him, ‘This guy is not worth even one night in jail, so put knife away, and I promise he won’t get away.’ Thankfully, he put the knife away.”
The commotion caught the attention of two other young men, who came up to assist Gentles, and thought they could help get the perp out of the car. As they pulled him from the vehicle, he attempted to run away, but Gentles quickly caught up and tackled him. He pinned the perp to the ground in a headlock and pulled his arms up over his head to keep him from fighting back. Gentles has no formal martial arts or self-defense training, but as an avid mixed martial arts (MMA) fan, he was able to recall some of the moves he’d seen and put them to use in that moment.
The perp continued to struggle, so Gentles recruited one of the young men to sit on his legs as they waited for the police to arrive. Gentles had the other young man call 9-1-1 again, and asked him to hold the phone up to Gentles’ ear to he could provide a detailed explanation of the situation, as well as a specific description of their location. All the while, the carjacker was still struggling to break free.
“I told the cops that the suspect was on ground, but they needed to hurry up before things got out of hand,” said Gentles. “And I just held on to the guy for dear life.”
Eventually, the police arrived with a K9 unit. Gentles, who still on the ground with the perp, remembers feeling a bit nervous that the police dog might go after the wrong person.
“The cop identified himself as a K9 officer, and told the guy, ‘If you move, I’m going to let the dog loose,’” Gentles recalled. “So I told the officer, ‘He’s not going to move. I haven’t met your dog, and he won’t know the difference between me and [the perp].”
When the police finally apprehended and cuffed the carjacker, they found a heroin needle in his pocket, which Gentles had suspected might be the case.
“The number-one reason why we usually don’t get involved [in physical altercations] is because of the risk of hypodermic needles,” said Gentles, who fortunately never came into contact with the needle. “There was a lot of things that could have gone wrong, but in the end, it turned out really good.”
A Little Bit of Luck, A Little Bit of Fate
The story became big news in Redding, but Gentles declined to speak to the media about his role in the incident, as he was concerned about the possibility of retaliation from the hijacker or his friends. In fact, he only chose to share his story with the Utility Reporter after the man was finally put in prison, several months after the attempted carjacking took place.
Unbeknownst to Gentles, his Local 1245 Business Rep had nominated him for the IBEW’s prestigious Life-Saving Award, and at the April Advisory Council meeting, Gentles graciously accepted the award, and shared his story with the Council.
“It was a little bit of luck, a little bit of fate, a lot of threats and weapons involved,” Gentles told the Advisory Council. “I’m not a hero. We can just chalk this one up for the good guys.”
“There were two sources of pressure on Marty to not to step in; there was his own well-being, but also the fact that we’re told not be a good Samaritan because of liability,” Business Manager Tom Dalzell said before presenting Gentles with the Life-Saving Award. “But he knew what to do, and he did it. Marty, I know you don’t like to think of yourself as a hero, but the IBEW thinks that you are.”
–Rebecca Band, IBEW 1245 Communications Director
Photos by John Storey