Elderly Good Samaritans Stop Christmas Day Robber

The Three Gentlemen stepped in to help a 68-year-old Woman.

Armed Robber
Larry S. Kent Jr

A 45-year-old Winter Haven man spent Christmas night behind bars courtesy of three good Samaritans who came to the rescue of a 68-year-old woman who was being robbed.

According to the Winter Haven Police Department, the crime in question took place around 5:45 p.m. as Valerie Melzer was returning to her vehicle after enjoying Christmas dinner with friends at a restaurant. When she approached the car, police said, Larry S. Kent Jr. ran up behind her and tried to snatch her purse. Melzer wasn’t such an easy target, Kent discovered.

Police say she began screaming and wouldn’t give up her purse. When they heard her screams, two of Mezler’s friends “sprang into action,” police wrote in an email to media. “At this time, Kent was dragging the victim at least 15 feet across the parking lot,” the email said. “The witnesses, 66 year-old Marvin Hotakainen and 73 year-old Paul Murray tackled Kent, pinning him to the ground while Melzer was able to break free.”

At this time, Patrick Cameron, 67, was leaving the restaurant and heard the commotion. When witnesses started yelling that Kent had a gun, “Cameron ran to assist holding Kent’s legs while Hotakainen and Murray held his upper body to the ground and retrieved the gun.” Kent’s weapon turned out to be a BB gun, but the men held him for special delivery to police officers anyway.

Melzer suffered minor cuts during the attack and was treated at the scene. Kent, however, had to take a side trip to Winter Haven Hospital for treatment of a broken rib and a few minor injuries, police noted. While making the pit stop, police found a clear baggie in Kent’s possession. That baggie contained .9 grams of methamphetamine, police said.

Kent was eventually booked into the Polk County Jail on robbery with a firearm, battery on a person 65 or older, possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia charges. He was being held without bond Friday morning. Kent, police say, is no stranger to Florida law enforcement. He has been arrested 17 times in Polk County and has served 4 years in Florida State Prison for grand theft auto, forgery and grand theft convictions.

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