He heard the cry for help and tackled the robber. Kennewick’s chief praised his courage

Good Samaritan receives Kennewick Police Chief Award of Excellence

Police Chief Ken Hohenberg presents Anthony Lovato with the Chief’s Award of Excellence for detaining a robbery suspect on May 18 in the Kennewick PetSmart parking lot who was fleeing with cash donations from a pet adoption event.
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Police Chief Ken Hohenberg presents Anthony Lovato with the Chief’s Award of Excellence for detaining a robbery suspect on May 18 in the Kennewick PetSmart parking lot who was fleeing with cash donations from a pet adoption event.

Anthony Lovato III had just finished shopping with his girlfriend at a Kennewick clothing store when there was a commotion in the parking lot.

“Stop him. He stole our money,” screamed a woman. He looked up to see a man running right at him.

The 21-year-old had just one instinct: Do the right thing, and in this case stopping the guy before he made off with a cash box full of donations.

Lovato grabbed the man and tussled with him, even falling onto the ground, before police arrived.

On Monday, one month after that confrontation, Lovato was praised for his integrity, impeccable character and courage.

‘Rose to the call of action’

Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg presented him with the Chief’s Award of Excellence and a Chief’s Challenge Coin — and encouraged Lovato to take a look at the department’s online recruitment page.

“I appreciate the fact that you intervened in these circumstances,” Hohenberg said in front of a room full of his top officers and Lovato’s family and friends.

Lovato Award hug
Lori Lovato videos Anthony Lovato III, right, being hugged by his father, Anthony, following Monday’s award presentation at the Kennewick Police Department Watch a video at: Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald

“I know sometimes we discourage that, but under the circumstances you saw the need and you rose to the call of action. So we’re very proud of you and that’s why we’re here today to congratulate you,” he said.

PetSmart was holding National Pet Adoption Day on May 18 in the parking lot outside its West Canal Drive store.

Tri-Cities TNR (Trap Neuter Return) was participating in the fundraising event, and member Karolyn Friday was guarding a cash box at their table when someone tried to wrench it from her hands.

Friday struggling to hold onto the box but the thief — later identified as Jesse F. Martinez — took off running with it.

Friday yelled for help, and several bystanders leaped into action, including Lovato.

Getaway car drove over box

He heard Friday yelling, saw the robber holding the cash box and tackled him.

Lovato and Martinez ended up against a white Pontiac Grand Am, which turned out to be the suspected getaway car. The driver’s side mirror was knocked off in the scuffle, and then the car backed away, knocking both men down, said Kennewick Commander Chris Guerrero.

Yet, Lovato managed to keep a hold on Martinez.

Guerrero said the Good Samaritan’s prescription glasses were damaged in the process, and the getaway car drove over the cash box. Still, police were able to return the stolen donations to Tri-Cities TNR.

“The vast majority of citizens choose to be great witnesses when these type of situations occur and are of great importance in providing information to responding officers,” said Guerrero. “But there are occasions when a citizen chooses to get more involved in the crime fighting process. This was the case with Mr. Lovato as he chose to take action.”

‘Above and beyond ... civic duties’

Guerrero said in addition to getting the money back, they were able to hold someone accountable for the alleged crime.

Martinez, 24, has a July 8 trial date in Benton County Superior Court for second-degree robbery, first-degree theft and second-degree assault. He is in jail on $10,000 bail.

And that’s all because Lovato went “above and beyond his normal civic duties,” Guerrero said.

Lovato, who works for Ideal Option in the Tri-Cities, laughed at Hohenberg’s recruiting joke since his father, Anthony Lovato Jr., is a firefighter with the Hanford Fire Department.

During Monday’s brief presentation, Lovato was thanked by a PetSmart official and members of Tri-Cities TNR.

He said it was a tremendous honor to be recognized by Chief Hohenberg and thanked his parents “for raising me with the mentality to do good.”

Lovato credited his athleticism with being able to hold onto the suspect, but said it all comes back to “the upbringing, showing me the right things to do.”

Kristin M. Kraemer covers the judicial system and crime issues for the Tri-City Herald. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years in Washington and California.