An employee of a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Florida is hailed a hero after battling a man who tried to steal a car from a woman who pulled her baby out of the vehicle in a heartbreaking confrontation in a parking lot captured on video.
Incredibly, this wasn’t even the first time that 26-year-old Thomas “Mykel” Gordon had rushed to rescue someone in distress near his workplace. Four years earlier, he allegedly helped rescue two girls after a construction crane fell on their car.
“Mykel, you are an amazing person,” said a Facebook post from the sheriff’s office investigating the potential carjacking.
According to sheriff’s deputies patrolling Okaloosa County, which includes the popular tourist towns of Fort Walton Beach and Destin, Gordon was working at a local Chick-fil-A on Wednesday when he heard a woman outside screaming while holding a baby.
The woman was in the process of getting the baby out of the car when a man wielding a sharpened board approached her and asked for her keys.
He then snatched the keys from her belt, opened her car door and got into the vehicle as she screamed for help.
Gordon heard her, ran towards her and began to fight with the attacker. Bystander cellphone video recorded Gordon taking down the other man, rolling him down the sidewalk and putting him in a headlock.
A woman holding a baby in one arm and waving with the other shouted “Someone help!” as Gordon struggled with the man. Gordon appeared to have mastered the potential carjacker just as some colleagues and at least one customer rushed out of the restaurant to help him.
The video shows one of the co-workers pulling out a cell phone and appearing to call the police when another woman approached him and yelled, “She had a baby in her hand!” How dare you? How dare you scare him like that?
Sheriff’s deputies later arrived and jailed a man they identified as 43-year-old William Branch on one count each of assault and battery and carjacking with a weapon. They said they also booked it with another carjacking attempt reported minutes earlier.
Accounts of Gordon’s actions drew attention on social media after the sheriff’s office released the video of him pushing Branch away along with information about the case. The video was provided to investigators as evidence of the case they are building against Branch, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
A Facebook page affiliated with the Chick-fil-A restaurant employing Gordon then posted a post naming him.
“At Chick-fil-A, our mission is to ‘serve,'” the post said. “Mykel went further…to ‘save’.”
Okaloosa Sheriff Eric Aden visited Gordon’s Chick-fil-A on Thursday and introduced him with a framed certificate of service and a ceremonial coin that some organizations use to recognize special achievements.
“If you hear a call for help, know that I’ll be there first,” Gordon told Aden after a small ceremony outside the restaurant. Referring to his certificate and coin, he said: “Thank you guys so much – I’ll take this, I need to put it in a very safe place.”
Gordon saying he would be there first if the sheriff heard a cry for help is no idle boast.
In 2018, while the Alaskan native was taking orders outside the same Chick-fil-A, a crane-equipped trucker failed to negotiate a nearby bend and ran over a car with two 17-year-old girls inside.
Gordon ran to the crashed vehicle, picked up one of the girls from the ground, pulled her to the side and tried to calm her down, The Northwest Florida Daily reported at the time.
This girl told him that her friend was in the car still alive. Gordon saw the other girl struggling to get out of a small opening on the passenger side. He realized he couldn’t reach it, but he ran inside to get some ice and towels.
Eventually, a group of other passers-by – including a former firefighter – forced open one of the doors of the wrecked car, and the second girl was able to extricate herself.