As 60-year-old Ethel Mills entered her car, she heard heavy footsteps behind her. She glanced out the window and saw two men standing next to her car.
“Give me your purse now,” one of the men demanded. But Ethel wasn’t going down without a fight. Soon, they would regret messing with her.
The two strangers had been following Ethel at a distance as she walked around the mall, waiting for her to enter the isolated parking lot, where they could easily attack her.
Finally, Ethel opened her car and put her safety belt on. But before she had the chance to lock her car, one of the men forced the door open while the other one reached for her purse.
Ethel decided she wasn’t going to let the man have her handbag. Her entire life was inside her purse, and she couldn’t bear losing her credit cards, social security card, photos of her grandchildren, and cash.
She grabbed her handbag, which was still around her right shoulder, and gave it a yank. But these men weren’t going to give up so easily.
One of the thugs pulled out a weapon and banged it on the window. But Ethel didn’t care. Instead, she put her car into reverse and mounted the curb.
One of the men was now in front of her car, and Ethel knew exactly what she should do to scare them away. She pressed the car’s horn as hard as she could, hoping to catch the attention of someone nearby. And it worked!
Suddenly, Ethel saw two men in uniform rushing towards them. The criminals’ faces went pale when they realized they were in big trouble.
They didn’t pay attention to what was in plain view. It turned out that the Armed Forces Career Center was just around the block!
When Sgt. Ricardo Schebesta, Staff Sgt. Bryson Twigg and Sgt. Ben Shoemaker heard loud honking coming from the parking lot, they all went to check it out.
They immediately realized what was going on and started to run after the two criminals.
Ethel had warned the Marines that the two men were armed, but that didn’t surprise them.
“No, that kid was never going to outrun me,” he said later, “ Shoemaker said. “Marines run towards the sound of chaos.” But would they catch the two men?
He caught up to one of the men, and by using his Marine Corps Martial Arts training, he took him down.
“My first thought was, we’re on the grass. I’m just going to tackle him,” Schoemaker recalls.
“I didn’t think about it until it was done,” he continued.
He later admitted that the last time he used this technique was while he had been deployed in Iraq.
Unfortunately, the other man managed to escape. His friend, however, was detained until the police arrived.
“Fear came later,” Schoemaker recalls. “At the time, no, I didn’t think about it. Once I sat down, it was like ‘holy crap.'”
“It’s different because I have a kid. That’s all I kept thinking about. Going into combat, I didn’t have one…” he continued.
“That’s the first time I’ve actually felt the whole, ‘What if something happened?'”
Schoemaker was aware that the man was armed, but he ran after him anyway.
He later discovered that the criminal had a metal baseball bat hidden in his pants. But what about his accomplice?
The authorities are still searching for the other man, but the Marines are confident that both of them will think twice before attacking someone again after this incident.
Schoemaker was lauded as a hero, and his name appeared in several newspapers. He and the other two Marines were also interviewed by the news.
Their commanding officer, Maj. Sung Kim said that the three Marines were “reflective of the courage and commitment they embody.”
But Schoemaker remains humble. “What are you supposed to do? That’s what we’re trained to do,” he said.
I can’t sit here and let it happen,” he explained. But his commanding officer thinks otherwise.
“They set a great example for their fellow Marines, and especially for the young poolees who are studying to learn what it means to be a Marine,” he said. “Their response reminds all Marines that we have a responsibility to always do the right thing, regardless of whether or not anyone is watching.”