Real Change vendor hailed as hero for subduing armed, alleged jewel thief
Real Change vendor Merlyn Parker was standing on the corner of Seventh Avenue
and Olive Way Friday, Sept. 21 when he heard the gunshots.
“I heard ‘pop, pop,’ and I started running,” said Parker, 38.
Copies of the newspaper were littered on the sidewalk as Parker took off toward Seventh and Stewart streets. He found two other people holding down an armed man police allege stole a tray full of jewelry from a shop at Westlake Center. Parker jumped on the pile and helped hold the man until police arrived.
According to the Seattle Police Department, the 35-year-old suspect entered a jewelry store on the second level of the mall wearing sunglasses and a mask similar to one featured in the movie “Halloween.” He brandished a gun, fired a shot and left the mall.
Outside the mall, the suspect ran up Olive Way. A concierge from a nearby hotel tackled him at Seventh Avenue and Stewart. The suspect fired the gun again, striking the concierge in the arm.
While some might have run away from the sound of gunfire, Parker ran toward it. He sat on the suspect along with an two other people until police arrived.
An hour later, police had taped off the intersection, and Parker headed back to his corner to sell papers. His hands were trembling as he described his decision to jump into the fray.
His customers are the employees and shoppers who frequent the area. They put food on the table, he said.
“These people are the ones who stuck with me a decade and a half in this area,” he said. “They’ve seen me when I was using dope, and they’ve seen me now that I’m not.”
Parker has never jumped into the midst of a robbery, but he has helped direct traffic after an accident on his corner.
“I’m former fire department,” Parker said. “My dad was in law enforcement, so it comes as second nature to me.”
As people milled around the crime scene, they stopped Parker to shake his hand and applaud his actions.
One woman pointed him out to everyone else, identifying him as one of the people who stopped the suspect.
“Congratulations,” the woman said while clapping. “He was a hero.”
Parker’s customers walked out of their nearby offices with printouts from Seattle-area news sites that reported on the incident. Drivers pulled over to wave and shake his hand. One customer bought a copy of the newspaper with a $20 bill.
And with that, Parker was back to work.
“Real Change paper today, folks. Read all about it,” he said to pedestrians, swinging the paper out with his arms and waving to the cars as they drove by.
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