SARASOTA, Fla. — An Army staff sergeant home on leave in southwest Florida chased down a suspected bank robber and held him until authorities arrived.
Eddie Peoples was at a Bank of America branch in Sarasota with his two young sons Tuesday when a man walked in with a handgun and demanded cash from the tellers, officials said.
Peoples told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune he sprang into action after the man, identified as 34-year-old Matthew Rogers, threatened his sons.
"The only thing that went through my mind was, 'Don't let them get hurt,'" Peoples told the paper.
Rogers went to each of the four bank tellers at the branch and instructed them to put money in a recycled grocery bag, and told them to leave out dye packs or any other trackers, according to the Herald-Tribune.
He waved his gun toward Peoples, who is black, and warned that "the big black guy" shouldn't try to stop him. Before fleeing the bank, he pointed the gun at Peoples' kids, Ikaika and Kioni. "The kid will get it" if anyone messed with him, Rogers said, according to the Herald-Tribune.
"I could not let that pass," Peoples said.
As the robber tried to make his getaway, Peoples left his sons inside the bank and ran to his rented van, which he used to block Rogers' car in the parking lot. Rogers drove his Honda into the van, trying to bust through it. When that didn't work, he got out and pointed his gun at Peoples, who twisted the man's arm, stripped away the gun and slammed him to the ground.
"I've been through five deployments. I've fought the Muqtada militia, everybody you can think of, so weapons getting pointed at me, it doesn't really bother me anymore," Peoples told FOX News in Tampa Bay. "I took the weapon away from him and put him on the ground and the rest was history."
Sarasota Sheriff's deputies arrived and arrested Rogers, who is charged with armed robbery. The gun turned out to be a realistic toy.
"Every time I get deployed, I always tell my children I'm going to fight the bad men. When I walked back in the bank, my oldest boy said 'Did you get the bad men?' and I said 'Yep, I got the bad men' and everyone applauded," Peoples told FOX.
'Piece of cake,' soldier says
The sergeant is home on leave because his father-in-law is ill, reported the Herald-Tribune. He will return to work later this month.
Compared to being in a war zone in the Middle East, thwarting the bank robber was "a piece of cake," Peoples said.
Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight presented Peoples with a certificate of recognition at a press conference on Wednesday.
"For Staff Sgt. Peoples to not only be on leave, hopefully relaxing, but with his two young children — to still take action to protect everyone in that bank is commendable," said Sarasota County Sheriff's office spokesperson Wendy Rose.
She said that while the sheriff "certainly does not recommend the average citizen spring into action like [Peoples] did, it was clear that he had this situation under control."
Sheriff Knight was so impressed with Peoples, he offered him a job.
"The sheriff asked him what his future plans were, and said please contact us when you're exploring coming back to this area," Rose told msnbc.com.
County commissioners as well as other staff members from the sheriff's office, mostly former military members themselves, came to the press conference to express their gratitude to Peoples, Rose said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.