Teen employee tackles, helps detain robbery suspect at St. George restaurant

St. George Police vehicle. File photo: sgcity.org

ST. GEORGE, Utah, June 4, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — A 17-year-old employee at a St. George restaurant tackled a suspect who had just robbed the eatery, and other employees joined in and helped subdue the suspect until police could arrive.

The call came to dispatch at 9:43 p.m. Friday, and St. George police responded to the Durango’s, at 245 Red Cliffs Drive.

The man had entered the restaurant minutes earlier, allegedly referenced a 9mm handgun, and threatened to harm employees unless they gave him money. They complied, a statement from the SGPD says.

“As the suspect was leaving the restaurant, a 17-year-old male employee tackled the suspect and other employees helped by holding the suspect down,” the statement says. “The manager on duty, a concealed carry permit holder, came after he heard the commotion and assisted in keeping the suspect on scene until police arrived.”

Arriving officers took the man, later identified as Lazaro Ponce, into custody.

“The suspect had arrived in a vehicle reported stolen out of Las Vegas,” the police statement says. “He had very recently been released from custody in Nevada for charges of robbery and kidnapping.”

Ponce’s affidavit, filed by an officer of the St. George Police Department, reveals a few more details.

“I noted that right next to the suspect on the ground was a significant amount of cash lying on the floor,” the statement says. The total was $1,412, it says.

“The suspect began making statements that if they were pressing charges, he wanted to press charges as well, saying that he had been jumped and hit with a gun. The suspect was then taken out of the store and sat in my patrol vehicle.”

Ponce, 45, was taken to an area hospital to be treated for a laceration on his head.

“While at the hospital, Ponce made a numerous amount of utterances about the incident while being treated. Making statements such as; had not taken any money, stating that ‘they’ ‘f—ed up’, that they are supposed to just let him go like banks.”

Post Miranda, “Ponce advised that he had gone into the restaurant and ordered a drink. He stated that at this time, the clerk handed him cash and that he never turns money down,” the police statement says.

“He then stated that he turned to leave and was then jumped, and struck with a gun. I asked some clarifying questions of Ponce. When asked about accepting the money and turning to leave, Ponce advised that he needed a lawyer.”

Ponce faces initial charges of:

  • Aggravated robbery, a first-degree felony
  • Receive or transfer stolen vehicle, a second-degree felony
  • Theft, a third-degree felony
  • Failure to disclose identity, a class B misdemeanor
  • Intoxication, a class C misdemeanor

Ponce is being held without bail at the Purgatory Correctional Facility

“We would like to thank those involved for their efforts in bringing this subject into custody without any injuries to those involved,” the SGPD statement says.

Purgatory Correctional Facility. Image: Google Streets

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