Editor’s note: In honor of Behind the Badge OC’s one-year anniversary, we will be sharing the 30 most-read stories. This story was originally published Feb. 2.
Huntington Beach Officer Victor Ojeda had the man pinned.
He was using his hands and legs to keep the suspect down and couldn’t reach for his radio to call for backup.
Ojeda hoped help would arrive soon.
Then a strange woman’s voice crackled over the radio.
“The first thing I thought was, ‘We’re in trouble, there’s a lady in my police car,’” Ojeda said.
He started to listen to what the voice was saying and quickly realized he wasn’t in trouble at all.
A call that came in at about 2:15 p.m. on Nov. 8 reported a suspected white supremacist had been harassing several African American people, including a family with a small child, outside a restaurant near Brookhurst and Adams.
One of the callers told police the man physically assaulted one of the victims of his harassment.
The dispatcher told officers the man was involved in a fight and it was unknown if he was carrying any weapons.
“My plan was to observe the situation from a distance until additional backup got there,” Ojeda said. “From the radio call, it sounded like this guy was either having a psychotic event or was under the influence.”
As Ojeda pulled in to the parking lot, a group of witnesses helped direct him to the suspect.
“A crowd of people were all pointing to this guy and now he’s trying to leave the scene,” Ojeda said.
Although Ojeda knew he didn’t want to contact the man alone, he also didn’t want a suspected white supremacist who had just beat another man to walk away.
He started to follow the suspect and asked him to stop several times. The man ignored Ojeda’s requests then dodged behind a bus stop advertisement.
Ojeda contacted him again and the man again tried to run.
“At this point, I realized I’m going to physically detain him,” he said. “The first thing you do is attempt to grab a wrist, a hand or a shoulder to get some control.”
This elicited a swift elbow strike from the suspect toward Ojeda’s chest.
“We struggled for a minute before we both fell to the ground,” he said.
The seriousness and potential danger of the situation was not lost on Ojeda, who has 15 years of law enforcement experience.
“This guy hasn’t been searched, I don’t know if he has a weapon and there’s a crowd of people around me,” he said. “At this point, my safety is paramount but both my hands are occupied and I can’t get to my radio.”
Even if the suspect didn’t bring a weapon of his own to this struggle with the officer, Ojeda knew he was armed.
“Every hands-on encounter is potentially a deadly encounter because you, the police officer, have multiple weapons on your equipment belt that the person, if not subdued, will have access to,” Ojeda said.
After struggling with the suspect, Ojeda was able to pin the suspect’s upper body to the ground using his own body weight and wrapping his legs around the suspect to control his legs.
Ojeda applied a Carotid Restraint hold, in which pressure is applied to the sides of the resistor’s neck in order to subdue him.
“If you’re in a fight with a suspect and so close you can’t access any of your other tools, it’s a very effective technique,” he said. “During our department’s arrest and control training, our instructors have us practice and review the technique for applying the hold several times to ensure we are applying it correctly.”
Then he heard the voice.
“I need backup!” the woman yelled. “Please hurry.”
The good Samaritan relayed the situation to the dispatcher then apologized for jumping on the radio.
She then directed other responding officers to their exact location.
“As she’s putting out the information, I realize she’s actually putting out accurate information,” Ojeda said.
Backup then arrived and the suspect was arrested.
Huntington Beach police tried to contact the woman for this story, but it appears she does not want recognition for her actions that day.
Ojeda said he remembers her words to him after the incident.
“She said something to me that hit home,” he said. “She said: ‘You know, my daddy was a police officer in Compton and he said that if I ever see a police officer by himself in trouble that I should get on the police radio.’”
With that, Ojeda hugged her.
“I made sure to thank her,” he said. “With all the negative stuff going on in the country it is nice to know that there are people out there who are still supportive of police.”