By Ed Brock
William Taylor just happened to be shopping at the right time to become a hero.
Around noon on Nov. 18, Taylor, a 29-year-old who lives in Griffin, was coming out of Southlake Mall in Morrow when he saw a man running and then a police car following behind him.
"At the first glance I knew something wasn't right," Taylor said.
What Taylor did next earned him Morrow's "Alert Citizen Award" which he received at Tuesday night's city council meeting.
Morrow Police Officer Rick Meehan had been called to the mall around 11:49 a.m. to respond to a disturbance between two people, a man and a woman, said Morrow Police Chief Charlie Sewell.
Meehan found the female in tears and the man in a car in the parking lot. The officer pulled his cruiser up behind the car, at which point the man got out of the car and tried to hide in front of it. Meehan got out of his car and told the man to come out, Sewell said.
"The suspect said 'You're going to have to catch me,'" Sewell said.
The man ran off, crossing the parking lot toward a nearby medical center. Meehan chased him and in the medical center parking lot Taylor, still in his car, tried to cut the man off. Then the suspect ran between two cars with Meehan, now on foot, behind him. That's when Taylor stepped in to block the man on the other side of the two cars.
"I wasn't expecting him to stop and help me," Meehan said of Taylor's actions. "Most people just stand around and look."
Because Taylor stopped the suspect Meehan was able to use his "ASP" retractable baton to take him down. However, after the officer put the baton down to handcuff the suspect, the man grabbed the baton and laid on top of it.
Taylor reached in and pulled the man's arm out so Meehan could safely cuff him.
If it weren't for Taylor, Sewell said, the suspect could have gotten into a wooded area near the parking lot, at which point "concern for Officer Meehan's safety would have escalated."
Meehan said that, in this case, it was good to have a second person backing him up.
"I don't know how much the guy would have fought if it was one on one," Meehan said.
Taylor's mother Linda Taylor was surprised when she heard about the incident, and worried that the man could have had a gun.
"I said (to Taylor) oh, I'm proud of you, but you're crazy," Linda Taylor said.
Having done some time in the Army where he learned hand to hand combat, 5-foot 7-inch, 165-pound Taylor said he wasn't too worried about that. He didn't see anything in the man's hands.
"It doesn't matter what their mouth and feet are doing as long as they don't have something in their hands that can hurt you," Taylor said. "The officer looked like he needed some help and I was in a position to help him."