Twin Cities in Motion

Saint Paul Runner Turned Crime Fighter

posted on Tue, Apr 1 2014 9:45 am by TCM Staff


Last January, Saint Paul, Minn. runner Aaron Henderson, 29, was finishing a run on Summit Avenue, when life presented him with a difficult choice. Aaron found himself a bystander to an aggravated robbery.

The victim, a female who had been struck in the face and her purse taken, was running across the street towards Aaron after the suspects, yelling, “He hit me [and] stole my purse.” The suspects, a male and female in their late teens or early 20s, were running west on Summit Avenue towards William Mitchell College of Law. Aaron seeing he was only a few blocks behind the suspects, put his personal safety aside and gave chase.     

What happened next is right out of a Hollywood action movie.

In full pursuit of the suspects, the seasoned high school athlete and avid cyclist was running hard and closing the gap quickly. As Aaron gained ground, the female suspect darted down a side street, and he committed himself to catching the male suspect.

“Dude, you don’t get to get away with this today!”

The suspect led Aaron on a wild chase down Summit Avenue and adjoining side streets. Neither Aaron nor the suspect seemed slowed by the slick winter conditions, as they jumped snowbanks and dodged moving vehicles. At some point in the chase the suspect realized Aaron was not going to give up or slow down, and he dropped the victim’s purse.

When asked if he thought about giving up the chase at this point, Aaron said, “I’ve already started so I’ve got to go catch him. The adrenalin has kicked in.” 

As Aaron closed the gap he yelled to the suspect, “Dude, you don’t get to get away with this today!”

The suspect came to the realization he wasn’t going to get away. Aaron—who had just finished a six-mile run before the chase—remembers breathing hard and his legs aching, after he caught up to the suspect and they stopped running. For both Aaron and the suspect, time appeared to slow down as they looked at each other, exhausted, but only seconds past.

Aaron said the suspect was almost calm about being caught and said, “I’m done.” But the defeat only lasted as long as it took the suspect to regain some energy. With a surge in energy, he resisted Aaron’s grip on his arm and pushed him.

What the suspect didn’t know was that Aaron, in addition to being an endurance athlete, is also a five-year veteran of Shotokan Karate. The single arm hold quickly turned into a full nelson, which Aaron held for about seven minutes with the suspect jerking his head back and forth trying to break free, until Saint Paul Police officers arrived.     

In February, Aaron was recognized for his brave actions and awarded a commendation from the Saint Paul Police Department’s Police Chief Thomas Smith.



A Return Trip Down Summit Avenue

The victim might call Aaron’s decision to transition from a casual runner to a half-marathoner earlier that winter serendipitous. A couple weeks before the sprint down Summit Avenue, Aaron had finished a half-marathon in Saint Paul and caught the running bug.

After the half-marathon, he didn’t want to lose the base he had built, so he signed up for the 2013 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon with his girlfriend.

We were thrilled to hear that his second time racing down Summit was more enjoyable. “[Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon] is truly awesome…so many people to cheer me on,” said Aaron. “They don’t have a reason too, but they are calling your [bib] number. Makes you feel great.”

Aaron plans to run the 2014 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, so we hope you’ll join us in cheering him on. Good luck, Aaron! We look forward to seeing you out on the course, and thanks for representing all runners so honorably last January.