California sandwich shop worker chases down suspect stealing mom's purse outside business

Employee Julian Surall was behind the counter at Ike’s Love & Sandwich Shop in Modesto, Calif., on Friday when he saw a man approach a mom pushing a stroller outside of the restaurant. Minutes later, he heard a frantic cry for help.

After asking for directions, the man allegedly grabbed the woman's purse from the bottom of her stroller and started to sprint away — before eventually tripping and spilling the contents of the purse on the sidewalk. As the woman attempted to grab the handle of her handbag, the man snatched the other end and a struggle ensued.

"We were both pulling on it and I just thought, I don’t have the strength, he is going to get my purse,” Victoria FitzGerald, who was with her 3-year-old son at the time, told the Modesto Bee. “Then I stuck my foot in the loop of my purse … and I started screaming for help."

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Surall instantly came to help, running out the door of the restaurant and after the suspect, who then took off empty-handed.

"As he ran away, an Ike’s employee, Julian, gave chase and captured the suspect a few blocks away," the Modesto Police Department said in an online statement, adding that the alleged thief — identified as Stephen Bartlett — was later arrested "thanks to Julian's actions."

Stephen Bartlett was charged with suspicion of robbery after the Feb. 22 incident.

Stephen Bartlett was charged with suspicion of robbery after the Feb. 22 incident. (Modesto Police Department)

Surrall, 24, and one of his customers caught the man hiding inside of a nearby establishment and tackled him. They instructed the employees to call the police and Bartlett was then taken into custody. Bartlett was booked for suspicion of robbery with a bail set at $50,000, police said.

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Afterward, FitzGerald made sure to pay Surall a visit to thank him for coming to her rescue.

“I said to him, ‘You’re a hero,’ and he said, ‘Nah,’” FitzGerald recalled to the California newspaper.

While Surrall admitted many people his age may have been more inclined to tape the incident, that's not the type of person he is.

“I’ve always been like that. That’s the way our parents raised us … If you can help somebody, you do that."

— Julian Surall

“I’ve always been like that. That’s the way our parents raised us … If you can help somebody, you do that," Surrall said, slamming the suspect for being "so disrespectful."

The Modesto Police Department later presented Surrall with a challenge coin to thank him for being a "great neighbor." Dozens of residents responded to the police department's Facebook post detailing the encounter, praising Surrall for stepping up.

"Good job Julian!!!! Brave men like you make us feel safe! GOD bless !!!" one woman exclaimed.

"You are a hero Julian! What an awesome human you are! Also they are very lucky to have you for an employee. Stand proud," another wrote.

"Julian,you're a true Hero! Modesto is a better place with you here. Thank you, and God bless you," a third added.