TUCSON, Ariz. — A tire store manager's quick action stopped a vicious attack and helped save a man's life.
Sam Mejia, 25, a former Marine, was just about to drive home on Feb. 5 from work at Embassy Tire & Wheel on West Prince Street in Tucson, where he is co-manager of the store. He saw a man run into the business' parking lot and confront another man, who was getting into his van.
The other man, Mr. Mejia said, was known around the store. The old man occasionally would stop by the shop and pick up junk tires.
Mr. Mejia, sitting in his car on the phone with his father, pulled closer to the situation, and he saw the suspect pull the old man out of the van.
He told his father he'd have to call him back.
From Mr. Mejia's vantage point inside his vehicle, he thought it looked like a carjacking; it appeared the old man was being punched, he said.
Mr. Mejia exited his vehicle and pulled his firearm. When he confronted the suspect, the man walked back across the street from where he came.
The old man went to get back into his van to leave, but Mr. Mejia said he stopped him to see if he was OK — all while dialing 911 and keeping an eye out for the suspect.
"When the dome light (of the van) came on, I could see he was covered in blood," Mr. Mejia said.
Mr. Mejia ran to his vehicle and grabbed his medical kit to administer first aid.
The incident happened so fast he said he "really just reacted." He leaned on his Marine Corps training.
"I just instantly knew what to do; knew exactly what to do with the medical. … The fact that I did pull out my weapon, and I stopped him right away; never took my eyes off the suspect. …" he said.
"You plan for these situations all the time in the Marine Corps, but you never think you'll encounter something like this (in civilian life)."
Tucson Police apprehended the suspect nearby and was able to pull surveillance footage from Embassy Tire and other nearby businesses. Police have yet to respond to Tire Business with further details.
Sam Mejia said a few days after the incident occurred, a family member of the victim stopped by the store to tell him the victim had survived and was recovering.
Marco Mejia Jr., Sam's cousin and co-manager at the Embassy Tire location, locked up the store with Sam that night and left just seconds before the incident.
"I got a call from AutoZone across the street. They said, 'Your parking lot is lit up like a Christmas tree,' " he said, referring to the lights from emergency personnel.
When Marco Mejia Jr. returned to the store, he said there were police and emergency vehicles all over the place.
When he heard what Sam had done, he said he wasn't surprised.
"Sam is an outstanding citizen, and he's always looking out for everyone," Marco Mejia Jr. said.
Sam Mejia started learning the tire business at his uncle's store when he was around 12 years old. His uncle, Marco Mejia Sr., has been a tire shop owner since 2004. Today, he owns and operates three Embassy Tire & Wheel locations in Tucson.
After high school, Sam served for four years in the Marine Corps.
"I always felt like I needed to serve my country, and I wanted to see the world," Mr. Mejia said.
Upon leaving the service and trying his hand at other jobs, Sam eventually returned to work for his uncle.
"He was a quiet kid, but when he came back, he could sell (tires)," Marco Mejia Sr. said. "(The Marines) got him to come out of his shell. …
"He is a great salesman, very knowledgeable, and he does everything honestly," Mr. Mejia Sr. added. "I really wish I had a hundred of him."
Marco Mejia Sr. said he, too, wasn't surprised that Sam stepped up to help.
"I never would have imagined something like that happening, but (Sam) didn't hesitate," Mr. Mejia Sr. said. "We all knew Sam had done something good, and we told him we are proud of him. … He's a hero."
Sam Mejia is modest about what happened. He said he's just happy the man survived.
"All in all, everything turned out good; the guy's alive," Mr. Mejia said. "Hopefully, it's a once-in-a-lifetime story."