A Martial Artist with a Troubled History with Cops Heroically Saves One

A dedicated practitioner of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, this man used his power for good

Mark Anthony Gonzales wearing a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gi, standing in front of sandbags.Jeff Wilson for Reader's Digest
Mark Anthony Gonzales’s training came in handy while defending a police officer.

When Mark Anthony Gonzales saw a police officer in need of assistance, every element of the moral code instilled in him through his Brazilian jiu-jitsu training—morality, courage, benevolence—told him to stop his car and lend a hand. Even though he was out on bond following an arrest three months earlier for possession of a firearm, a charge that he had disputed and that would later be dropped. Even though he was on his way to work and had his wife, ­Rachel Ortiz, his four kids, ages 6 and under, and three other extended family members in the car. He saw an officer struggling with a suspect and knew what he had to do.

As Gonzales was driving to open up the martial arts gym where he trains and volunteers, he saw what looked like a police pursuit. A balding man of medium build, dressed in camouflage shorts, a black T-shirt and work boots, was running from a police officer at an intersection in San Antonio, Texas. Gonzales slowed down. So did the man being chased—to avoid running into Gonzales’s minivan. That hesitation allowed the muscular officer to catch up and take the suspect to the ground.

Gonzales, now 37, quickly realized that the officer did not have control of the situation. “The officer was straddling him and the suspect was, what we call in the gym, rocking the boat—rocking him back and forth,” he recalled. The man appeared a threat, about to tip the police officer over and assume a position of control.

“That was my cue,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales put his vehicle in park and jumped out, as did Ortiz, her phone trained on the two men on the ground. The first thing Gonzales did was identify himself and spell out his intention to make it two-on-one in ­Officer Nathaniel Linville’s favor and not the other way around. Then, with the man on his back and Linville struggling to control the man’s upper body, Gonzales put his weight on the man’s legs. The suspect, 44-year-old Jack Evans, who was wanted for unauthorized use of a vehicle, managed to roll to his right, onto his stomach.

Quote Text: The suspect quickly reached and got his right hand on the gun.

With the suspect’s left arm behind his back, Linville tried to handcuff him. But the officer’s positioning, perpendicular to Evans, his chest pressed against Evans’s right rib cage, left him vulnerable. More precisely, it left his gun, holstered on his right hip, vulnerable, inches from the suspect’s nose.

Evans quickly reached and got his right hand on the gun. In an instant, Gonzales dug his fingers under Evans’s fingers and pried them away, and the firearm was released.

The scuffle wasn’t over, though. ­Evans, on his stomach again, continued to resist, to wriggle. Gonzales used techniques he’d learned in the gym: digging his knee into Evans’s elbow, pulling the suspect’s head toward him to maintain control from a position on the side, while Linville continued to straddle Evans’s hips. Linville got Evans’s right wrist in the cuffs, but the wanted man buried his left arm under his body, out of reach. So Gonzales applied an underhook—a jiu-jitsu move where the hands are placed under the opponent’s arm to control the shoulder and upper body—and tugged until, after a few seconds, ­Evans’s shoulder gave out. And just like that, Linville clicked on the second handcuff and the threat was over.

But for Gonzales, the ride was just beginning. He’d asked his wife to record everything to protect him, as an ex-convict, just in case anything was called into question. But Ortiz posted the video on Facebook, where it attracted more than 56 million views.

Among those awed by the video was Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructor Rener Gracie, a fourth-degree black belt, who stated: “The combination of Gonzales’s technique and his calm communication with both the officer and suspect is the stuff of legends!”

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest