An employee of a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Florida is being praised as a hero after he fought off a man trying to steal a car from a woman getting her infant out of the vehicle in a harrowing parking lot confrontation captured on video.
Incredibly, it wasn’t even the first time that 26-year-old Thomas “Mykel” Gordon rushed to save someone in distress near his workplace. Four years earlier, he had reportedly helped rescue two girls after a construction crane fell on their car.
“Mykel, you are one incredible individual,” said a Facebook post from the sheriff’s office investigating the would-be carjacking.
According to sheriff’s deputies patrolling Okaloosa county, which includes the popular tourist towns Fort Walton Beach and Destin, Gordon was working his job at a local Chick-fil-A on Wednesday when he heard a woman outside screaming while holding a baby.
The woman had been getting the infant out of the car when a man wielding a sharpened plank approached her and demanded her keys.
He then snatched the keys from her waistband, opened her car door and got in the vehicle as she shouted for help.
Gordon heard her, ran to her and began tussling with the assailant. A bystander’s cellphone video recorded Gordon taking the other man down, rolling around with him on the pavement and putting him in a headlock.
A woman holding a baby with one arm and waving with the other screamed “Somebody help!” as Gordon struggled with the man. Gordon seemed to have subdued the would-be carjacker just as some co-workers and at least one customer rushed out from inside the restaurant to help him.
The video shows one of the co-workers pull out a cellphone and appear to dial the police when another woman approached and yelled at him: “She had a baby in her hand! How dare you? How dare you scare her like that?”
Sheriff’s deputies later arrived and jailed a man whom they identified as 43-year-old William Branch with one count each of battery and carjacking with a weapon. They said they also booked him with another carjacking attempt reported minutes earlier.
Accounts of Gordon’s actions drew widespread attention on social media after the sheriff’s office posted the video of him fending off Branch along with some information about the case. The video was provided to investigators as evidence for the case they are building against Branch, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
A Facebook page affiliated with the Chick-fil-A restaurant employing Gordon then published a post naming him.
“At Chick-fil-A, our mission is to ‘serve’,” the post said. “Mykel took it further … to ‘save’.”
Okaloosa’s sheriff, Eric Aden, on Thursday went to Gordon’s Chick-fil-A and presented him with a framed certificate of service and a ceremonial coin that some organizations use to recognize special achievements.
“If you hear a call for help, know I’ll be there first,” Gordon told Aden after a small ceremony outside the restaurant. Referring to his certificate and coin, he said: “Thank you very much, guys – I will take this, I got to put this in some very safe place.”
Gordon’s saying he would be there first if the sheriff heard a call for help isn’t empty boasting.
In 2018, as the Alaska native took drive-up orders outside the same Chick–fil-A, a trucker equipped with a crane failed to negotiate a nearby turn and rolled on to a car with two 17-year-old girls inside.
Gordon ran up to the crushed vehicle, picked up one of the girls on the ground there, brought her to the side and tried to calm her, the Northwest Florida Daily News reported at the time.
That girl told him her friend was in the car still alive. Gordon saw the other girl struggling to crawl out of a small opening on the passenger side. He realized he couldn’t reach her, but he ran inside to grab ice and towels.
Eventually, a group of other passersby – including a former firefighter – forced open one of the destroyed car’s doors, and the second girl was able to wiggle free.