Would-be robber saved by man tried to rip off

Andrea Medeiros


A would–be robber in New Bedford was saved by the store owner he tried to rob. The suspect was attacked by neighbors, mid–heist. Now, those neighbors could face charges.

The jingle of the bell to Juan Rodriguez's family store holds a little more meaning now. He said a robber stormed through the door this week wielding a knife and demanding cash.

“A guy came over here and surprised me and grabbed me by my neck and hit me in the face and asked me for the money with the knife pointed in my face,” said Juan.

Police said surveillance video, taken Wednesday night, shows the robber battling with Juan.

“I grabbed a knife and I said ‘Hey I have a knife,' but I put the knife back, and I grabbed a baseball bat,” said Juan, “Now, who's going to get the money, we're going to see who's going to get the money. Then he started moving away, and I chased him.”

Juan rushed out of the store screaming for help. That's when several neighbors rushed over and they started chasing and beating the robber.

Officers said it had to be a group of about ten people who were wailing on 22 year old Joseph Defreitas, even forcing him to strip down to his underwear. Defreitas ended up in the hospital with serious injuries, including a gash on his head.

“If you don't contain the individual and it turns into a beat down, and in that case I think the line has been crossed,” said Police Captain Steven Vicente.

Store owner Juan said, at that point, he helped the robber, covering him with his own body twice to shield the blows. That made his son proud.

“Not everybody would try to protect the dude who just tried to rob him,” said Moises Rodriguez, “Nobody has that good of a heart, and I guess I'm proud to call that guy my father.”

Even so, police were questioning the Rodriguez family and all the neighbors involved, Friday. They could face charges for kidnapping and assault.

Defreitas is out of the hospital charged with armed assault.