James Kilcer was presented with the Yuma County Sheriff's Office Citizen's Valor Award during a ceremony on Oct. 26.
The award was given "for extraordinary heroism and exceptional courage while voluntarily coming to the aid of another citizen during an incident involving criminal activity at extreme, life threatening, personal risk in an attempt to save or protect human life," authorities said.
The incident, according to a statement released by YCSO, happened at a Chevron gas station near Fortuna Road and the I-8. Deputies responded to an armed robbery report there at around 4:30 a.m.
"Upon arrival, Deputies learned of three suspects entering the Chevron, one of them armed with a handgun. The armed suspect walked next to a store customer while pointing the weapon toward the cashier when the customer acted immediately and disarmed him," read a portion of the statement.
The other two suspects, according to officials with YCSO, fled the area, and the Marine Corps veteran was able to detain the suspect until law enforcement arrived.
"When Deputies contacted the customer, who previously served in the United States Marine Corps, and asked how he was able to take control of the situation, he stated, ‘The Marine Corps taught me not to [mess] around,’" read a portion of the statement.
The suspect, identified by officials with YCSO as a juvenile, was booked into the Yuma County Juvenile Justice Center for alleged armed robbery and aggravated assault. As of Oct. 29, all three juveniles who are said to be the suspects have been arrested.
One of the suspects is connected to a robbery at a Circle K on Oct. 11, YSCO said.
Because they are juveniles, they will not be identified.
Marine vet said he did ‘what needed to be done’
James Kilcer said he was talking to the clerk on Wednesday when the gun-pointing suspect entered the store with two companions.
"It was definitely not what I was expecting, but you always have to be ready for that kind of stuff," Kilcer told the Yuma Sun.
Kilcer, now an Army Yuma Proving Ground civilian employee, said the suspect and his companions were looking at the clerk, not him.
"I scanned them for any other weapons and didn’t see any," Kilcer said. "I knew he was my guy at that point."
Kilcer sprang at the suspect, grabbed the gun and hit the suspect in the face with a bag of drinks.
Kilcer said he then held the suspect from behind at gunpoint as his two companions ran away.
"I guess I was just in the right place at the right time," Kilcer said. "I was doing what needed to be done."
Kilcer says he wouldn't hesitate to risk his life to protect others again. "Oh yeah, in a heartbeat," he said.
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.
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