Sunday, April 13, 2014 | 2 a.m.
DO YOU KNOW AN ANGEL?
If you know someone with a caring heart — someone who has helped a neighbor, a stranger, an organization or the entire community — please pass their name along to us so we can share their story. In Angels in the Valley, an occasional series, we’re profiling individuals who’ve made a difference in the lives of others and deserve to be recognized for their willingness to help. So if you know an Angel, email [email protected] with details.
Mike Elgas was at Jack in the Box for a quick breakfast the day he helped save a police officer’s life.
Elgas, 48, watched with concern as a belligerent customer refused to quiet down, prompting the restaurant manager to call 911. An officer arrived and, according to all accounts, politely asked the customer to go outside. The customer, who appeared intoxicated, walked outside. The officer said he was free to go. But the customer instead got in the officer’s face, “giving him a lot of lip,” Elgas said, and spouting vulgarities at him.
A Metro Police report described the March 21 incident as follows: Elgas went outside just as the customer punched the officer in the face, triggering a scuffle. The officer, who is 5-foot-7 and 160 pounds, was knocked to the ground, overpowered by the 6-4, 240-pound assailant.
Elgas saw the man, later identified by Metro Police as Curtis Leigh Traupman, lying on top of the officer and getting his hands on the officer’s holstered weapon. That’s when Elgas sprung into action. “He wasn’t playing,” Elgas said of the attacker. “He was serious. He said he was going to kill (the officer), and his mind seemed set on it, the way he was trying to get the gun.”
Elgas, who’s 5-foot-10 and 240 pounds, positioned himself behind Traupman, put his arm around Traupman’s neck and pulled back with all his weight and strength, hoping the choke hold would have some effect. Finally Traupman, 39, fell backwards, Elgas still holding on to him.
Once free, the officer was able to access his taser and disable Traupman, who was then taken away to be charged with attempted murder with a deadly weapon, resisting a public officer with a firearm and battery on a protected person.
Why did Elgas put himself in harm’s way, trying to take on a man bigger and younger than he who could end up with a gun at any moment?
“I understand that some police officers are sometimes seen as being on the offensive all the time. But now I also understand what they go through,” Elgas says. As to being a good Samaritan: “I don’t feel like a hero, but I feel good inside that I did something good.”
Elgas said he got a sizable gift card from the owner of the Jack in the Box and kudos from his employer, FedEx. He and the officer he helped are now buddies. There hasn’t been any official letter of thanks from Metro, nor comment from the department about Elgas’ role.
But street cops have their own way of showing gratitude. The other day when Elgas and his girlfriend were dining at the Cannery, two officers overheard the couple’s conversation about the struggle. When Elgas went to pay for dinner, he was told that a couple of cops had picked up the tab.