MESA, AZ (CBS5) - A good Samaritan took down a would-be armed bank robber on the day after Christmas, according to the Mesa Police Department.
The attempted robbery happened at a U.S. Bank branch inside the Safeway grocery store at University Drive and Lindsay Road.
Joe Clifton and his wife had just arrived at the store to buy groceries when they glanced into the bank and saw a man with a ski mask and a gun standing in front of two bank tellers frantically stuffing money in a sack. They would later find out the gun was fake but Clifton said he didn't even think about that before taking action.
The former Boise State and semi-pro linebacker charged with shoulder lowered and connected hard.
"The last time I actually hit someone like that was the, the last game I played - the RMFL (Rocky Mountain Football League) championship," Clifton said. "I kind of came looping in around him and I looked at the girl behind the desk and I said, ‘I'm coming.' And I just took off, all 261 pounds of me, right into him."
Clifton said the suspect gasped for air as the gun flew out of his hand and clattered to the floor.
Mesa police said the suspect, David Alan Harrison, is a transient who used a very realistic looking fake gun and ski mask when he walked into the bank. He demanded money and two cashiers started frantically filling the bag with $4,621.
That's what the Cliftons said was going on about the time they wandered by.
"I knew what (Joe) would do. And I knew what I was going to do and that's why I was headed down an aisle to get away from the gun. And I turned around and looked at Joe and said, 'Don't do it, don't do it,'" said Lynda Clifton, Joe's wife.
But Joe Clifton had already made up his mind.
"At that point in time you just think these people need help and hopefully if I was in that situation someone would come to my aid," Joe Clifton said. "I'd do it again."
At first Lynda Clifton said she was mad at her husband. Later, she said she realized he might have saved people from getting hurt - including the suspect who could easily have been shot by police had they showed up and also believed the gun to be real.
"That night I was very upset with him and told him, 'Don't you ever do that again,'" Lynda Clifton said. "But he would do it again ... and I'm proud of him because he stopped someone from possibly getting killed."
Joe Clifton said he can't take all the credit because several other good Samaritans rushed in to help hold the suspect once they saw what was going on.
Police said the suspect, Harrison, is a transient who told police he was trying to get some cash for warm clothes or get arrested so he wouldn't have to spend another cold night on the streets. He also admitted he is hooked on heroin, according to the police report.
He was arrested and booked for armed robbery.