Quick-thinking barista stops bank robbery suspect

LITHIA — A man ran past the drive-through window at DaSilva's Coffee Shop and all the employees froze — except one.

A barista chased the man into the parking lot and yelled, "Freeze! Police! Freeze, or I'll shoot!" said Karen Raga, a co-worker of the woman's.

Hillsborough sheriff's deputies say Jeffrey Gordon Merritt stopped in his tracks, allowing the barista and the manager of the Valrico State Bank he had just robbed to get him on the ground and hold him there until they arrived.

Merritt, 44, of 9411 Chalet Drive in Tampa, was charged with armed robbery. He is a suspect in the robberies of two Pinellas County banks in September.

Friday's incident happened about 9:10 a.m. at 15256 Fishhawk Blvd., after Merritt pointed a gun at a teller and demanded money, the Sheriff's Office said.

Raga said when she and her co-worker, a former German police officer, saw Merritt being followed by the bank manager, her friend sprang into action.

"It was just like the stuff you see on TV, bending the arm behind the back, pushing him up against the car and holding him by the neck," she said.

The barista and the bank manager sat on Merritt until deputies arrived and took him away.

The woman returned to a coffee shop full of applause for a job well done.

"We were so proud of her," Raga said.

The Sheriff's Office did not release the names of the people who helped catch Merritt because they are witnesses.

Quick-thinking barista stops bank robbery suspect 10/03/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 6, 2008 1:59pm]

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