Army Staff Sgt. Eddie Peoples Saves the Day, Nabs Bank Robber

Veteran on stopping bank robbery: 'A surreal moment.'

June 3, 2011, 8:27 AM

June 3, 2011 -- When Army Staff Sgt. Eddie Peoples returned home to Sarasota, Fla., this week after a tour of duty in Iraq, the last place he thought he would find himself was in the middle of more danger, at his local bank.

"It was a surreal moment," Peoples said today on "Good Morning America," of the moment when a robber stormed into the Bank of America branch where Peoples and his two young sons were waiting in line.

Sarasota police say it was then that Matthew Rogers, 34, casually dressed in a greet t-shirt and baseball hat, calmly entered the bank, brandishing a large gun, and ordering people not to move and tellers to fill a satchel with cash.

"The way he said it was the way you would order lunch, cold and calculated," Peoples, 34, told "GMA." "I thought he was joking at first."

Peoples' two sons, 4-year-old Kioni and 6-year-old Ikaika, thought the robbery was a joke too and began laughing, drawing unwanted attention from the robber who reportedly waved the gun in Peoples' direction and warned him to not try anything.

It was then that Peoples' fatherly instincts, and military training, kicked in.

Surveillance video from the bank captured Peoples, at that moment, ordering his sons to hide under lobby chairs as he moves two larger chairs into position to shield them from the gunman.

He then threw himself directly into the line of fire.

"My instincts took over," Peoples said. "I'd rather take a bullet any day than one of these beautiful boys get hurt."

Peoples, a 10-year Army veteran who has been through five deployments, stood over his sons. He was directly in Roger's line of fire, until the gunmen got his bundle of money and fled out the back of the bank to his car.

But the dramatic story did not end there, with the rest playing out like a scene straight from an action movie.

'Surreal Moment'

As the bank robber left, Peoples got into his white van and followed. He sped across the bank's parking lot until he reached the back of the suspect's getaway car and pinned his front bumper to the suspect's back bumper.

"If I could buy the police a little bit of time that's what I was going to do," Peoples said on "GMA." "This guy was potentially very dangerous."

The two men entered a standoff in their vehicles, but when no shots were fired, the two eventually came face to face.

"I fully expected at least two shots through my windshield," said Peoples. "When that didn't happen I got out of the van and was immediately greeted by a handgun to my face."

Peoples made a move he learned from his Army training, grabbing the suspect's hand and twisting the gun away.

"He put the gun at my forehead," Peoples, who's served in both Iraq and Kuwait, said as he demonstrated the move on "GMA." "But I grabbed him and twisted his arm and then I could grab the weapon and hit him with it."

"He didn't want any more after that."

With loose money flying around the parking lot, Sarasota deputies arrived on the scene and arrested Rogers. The gun ended up being a replica.

On Wednesday, Sarasota Sheriff Tom Knight presented Peoples with a certificate of recognition.

But it was the adoration, and safety, of his sons that mattered most to the Army hero turned real-life hero, in their young eyes.

"I think he's like Batman," 6-year-old Ikaika said on "GMA," of his father.

"Every time I go out [to war] I say 'Daddy's going to fight the bad guys,'" Peoples explained. "So when I came back in [from the robbery] they asked, 'Daddy, did you get the bad guy?'"

"Yeah, I got him," Peoples told "GMA" he told his sons when he returned to the bank.

His actions garnered not just a hero's welcome from his sons, but also the still-shocked but now appreciative, and safe, crowd of bank employees and customers gathered inside the bank with Peoples' sons.

The Sarasota police were equally appreciative, and so impressed by Peoples' heroic actions they offered him a position with the department anytime he wants, something he told "GMA" he will seriously consider.

"Right now I've put my warrant package in for the military and my contract ends in 2013," he said. "And I'm seriously thinking about joining them."

"That is a tactical team there," he said of the Sarasota police. "I have to give them credit."

Peoples said that if he ever finds himself in the same situation again, he would react the same way.

"Sometimes you have to put your own personal safety aside for the greater good," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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