Offensive lineman Justin Herron, who just finished his rookie season with New England Patriots, is being hailed a hero after saving a 71-year-old retired schoolteacher from being sexually assaulted in a public park last Saturday.
Herron, 25, who is training for the offseason in Arizona, and Phoenix resident Murry Rogers, who was also at the park for his daughter’s 15th birthday party, heard screams from the victim and rushed to the scene of the assault.
“At that moment, I was in shock,” Herron said at a press conference Wednesday, according to NBC affiliate KPNX. “I wish I could tell you what I was thinking, but I could just tell someone needed help. All I could do was rush myself over there to make sure I could help the victim and I could comfort her and be the best person I can be.”
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The retired teacher was going for her daily walk in Kiwanis Park in Tempe when the assailant, identified as Kevin Caballero, 30, jumped her to the ground and attempted to take off her pants, per a police report.
Herron, who is 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, intervened, not wanting to be “too aggressive” when he pulled the assailant from the victim.
“I’m a football player, I’m kind of big,” he said at the news conference. “I try not to be too aggressive with people knowing I could potentially hurt somebody. I do have a loud voice. I yelled, told him to get off of her, and then yanked him off and I told him to sit down, and I told him to wait until the cops come.”
Herron said he always thought these sorts of things happen in movies and he never expected to experience this. Both he and Rogers were presented with Outstanding Service Awards by the Tempe Police Department.
“If not for the swift actions of Mr. Justin Herron and Mr. Murry Rogers, this vicious attack could’ve been much worse,” Tempe Police Detective Natalie Barela said.
The two got the chance to meet up with the woman briefly before their press conference. She was grateful they came to her aid when she was most vulnerable. “She thanked us. She called us her angels,” said Rogers. “I’m a little bit of a crier, so it was very emotional.”
According to the police, the victim suffered “minor injuries” and was immediately treated by the crisis unit for any emotional trauma from the attack.
“My parents always talked to me about it, if there’s someone in need, make sure you can help them and be the best you can be,” Herron said. “I don’t want this to happen again, I don’t want to have to save someone else’s life again, but I’m glad I was able to save someone’s life on Saturday.”
Caballero has been taken into police custody and faces charges of attempted assault and kidnapping, according to the police.