A 19-year-old cook foiled a robbery at a Wichita restaurant Wednesday morning by throwing a wrench at the would-be robber, then beating him with his own gun.
David Hernandez was working at Tacos Lopez, 795 N. West St., when two men burst in just after 2 a.m. One had a pistol.
Hernandez said he was mopping the floor when the gun-toting robber demanded money and grabbed Hernandez's co-worker, Maria Ibbarra, by the hair and forced the two of them to lay on the floor in a closet at the back of the restaurant.
The fear in Ibbarra's eyes and a nearby wrench, Hernandez said, motivated him to action.
He threw the wrench at the robber at close range, he said, but missed.
It was enough of a distraction, however, that Hernandez leaped up and grabbed the man's hands in a fight for the pistol.
"I don't know where it came from," Hernandez said in Spanish. "But I was afraid, and I thought, 'If I don't kill him, he'll kill me.' "
Hernandez wrestled for the gun.
At one point, Hernandez said the robber could have shot him in the stomach. But he didn't.
Hernandez said he pulled the gun away and punched the robber's head several times with pistol in hand.
The other suspect tried to fight with Hernandez, too, biting his hand to pry the gun away. But Hernandez said he overpowered him.
"There was blood all over," Hernandez said.
The fight spilled into the parking lot as the robber's accomplice fled.
Hernandez slammed the robber to the ground and held him for several minutes before police arrived.
Police took the suspect to be treated at a hospital for lacerations to the head, then booked him into the Sedgwick County Jail.
Hernandez said he moved to Wichita from the central Mexican city of Zacatecas about 18 months ago. He said he's not a violent guy, but that he's been forced into fights before and had to defend himself.
"I just think I did what I had to do," he said.
He was back at work — one of his two jobs — Wednesday evening.
"I'm a bit afraid," he said. "But I'm proud. I'm glad nothing worse happened."
It was the second time in three days people had broken up an attempted robbery at a Wichita restaurant.
On Monday morning, patrons of a south Broadway restaurant tackled a suspect during an apparent robbery and held him for police. That suspect was not armed.
Authorities don't recommend that people confront armed suspects during violent crimes, said Steven Kenney of the Wichita Police.
"David took a risk by trying to fight off an armed suspect," Kenney said. "Luckily, no one was seriously injured this time."