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Witness helps catch knife-wielding suspect

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CHULA VISTA, Calif. – An attempted robbery at a Chula Vista restaurant was foiled with help from witnesses, including one who followed the suspect until police arrived.

Chula Vista police arrested 35-year-old Salvador Martinez, who was out on bail for a previous arrest. Investigators said he entered the Taco Bell at 696 E Street around 11:35 a.m. July 23 wielding a knife and demanding money from two employees.

Taco Bell Knife RobberThe suspect was told employees did not have access to the safe. About that time Petty Officer Second Class Jessica Peek arrived to have lunch with her friend, who is a manager.

“As I’m walking towards the door, I see my friend standing on the outside of the counter,” said Peek. “And the suspect came from the back of the restaurant and he approached her and put the knife on her back.”

Peek locked eyes with her friend and moments later the suspect saw her standing at the door.

“I guess my uniform scared him,” she said.

Immediately, the suspect took off through the door and headed down the street on foot. Peek said she didn’t hesitate, calling 911 and jumping in her car to follow him.

In the 911 call Peek can be heard saying, “I’m not going to get out of my car.” The operator responds, “No. Don’t get out of your car.”

Peek follows as the suspect walks into the nearby Best Western parking lot where he changes clothes. She remains on the phone with the operator explaining everything she sees.

“He took off his jersey and the shades and hat he had on,” said Peek. “And I made sure I kept a safe distance, because I didn’t want him to know I was following him.”

The suspect continued walking to the nearby trolley station, where he nearly escaped.

“Right before he got to the trolley the cops came,” said Peek. “So I just honked my horn. I let them know that was the guy and they apprehended him.”

Martinez is now facing charges for attempted robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and committing a felony while out on bail.

“If I didn’t follow him he would have gotten away,” said Peek. “Because he didn’t look like what he looked like in the store whenever the cops finally got there. So it would have been really hard to identify him.”

Martinez remains in custody on $150,000 bail.

“I felt like God definitely has my here for a reason,” said Peek. “Like I was just in the right place at the right time.”

Police said along with Peek, four other witnesses also called 911 to provide information about the crime.

“We can’t do our job effectively without the help of the public,” said Gary Wedge, Chula Vista Police.

Police do not recommend for witnesses to approach suspects or put themselves in dangerous situations. In this case, Peek felt like she could handle the situation safely.

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