Notre Dame senior lacrosse player stops robbery
Tom Naatz | Monday, November 25, 2019
Notre Dame senior Tommy McNamara was having lunch with a friend at The General restaurant in South Bend on Friday. While he was eating, he said he noticed another young man moving suspiciously about the establishment.
“I kind of noticed this kid who had his hoodie on, kind of walking around the place. Little bit of strange activity,” he said.
A few minutes later, the man grabbed another customer’s purse and bolted out of the establishment.
“All of the sudden, I’m just sitting at my table — and I’m pretty close to the door — he sprints from the front of the restaurant by the cash register, scoops up an old lady’s purse, and just darts out the door,” he said.
Not missing a beat, McNamara, a member of the Notre Dame lacrosse team, rose from his seat and took off after the thief.
“I guess without really thinking, I just leapt up and started running after him,” he said. “From the very beginning, I’m yelling ‘Stop! Stop! Give me the purse! Stop! You don’t want to do this!’”
After chasing the individual for a substantial distance through the streets of South Bend — McNamara estimated the chase lasted between five and seven minutes — McNamara persuaded the thief to stop running.
“I eventually start saying, ‘I’m not trying to get you in trouble … I’ll give you $20, just give me the purse. I get it,’” McNamara said. “He finally stops. I approach him slowly and say, ‘Dude, I’m not trying to get you in trouble. I have 20 bucks. Take it, you just can’t take this purse.’”
Once the chase had ended, McNamara got the purse back and engaged with the man he had been chasing.
“I get up close to him, and look at him, and ask, ‘Dude, how old are you?’ He’s like, ‘I’m in high school.’ He couldn’t have been older than 15 years old,” he said. “I start talking to him for a while. He gave me the purse, and we had a conversation. I actually gave him my phone number. I was like, ‘I understand this is a really tough situation.’ We were just talking for a while about kind of everything. I told him, ‘If you ever need to reach out, I’ve got like 50 teammates who’d have your back. I get it. You’re in high school having to make that decision.’ Think about it. Being 15 years old and your choice is ‘do I or do I not want to steal this woman’s purse for whatever extraneous reason that’s out of his control?’ I gave him 20 bucks and just said, ‘Listen, take my number. Give me a call if you ever want to talk, or need help.’ Then we went our separate ways.”
The teenager was remorseful, McNamara said. McNamara thinks the high schooler vacillated about whether or not to steal the purse in the first place.
“He was entirely apologetic. The first thing he said was ‘I’m sorry,’” McNamara said. “He’s sitting there thinking, ‘do I or do I not want to steal this woman’s purse?’ What’s crazy is I saw him leave the place a couple times — he would walk out, then walk back in. … That’s kind of why he was in the corner of my eye. He was just apologetic. … He was like ‘I don’t want to be doing this.’ It was a tough conversation, but a real one. That’s why I wanted him to be able to reach out.”
Upon his return to The General, McNamara was greeted as a hero.
“It was funny, the whole place broke into applause,” he said. “There was a priest in there — I guess he was eating food there — he comes up and gives me a blessing. … One lady came up to me and said, ‘My husband was a retired police officer. I have a son who’s a police officer, a son who’s a firefighter,’ and I just connected with her in that way.”
The owner of the stolen purse was particularly grateful, McNamara said.
“She was just really thankful,” he said. “She asked for my name. She tried to give me money. Everyone was trying to give me money for it. I was like, ‘No, it’s OK.’ She was just really thankful. Full of gratitude.”
McNamara credited a variety of people in his life with his decision to help out in the situation.
“I think a lot has to do with the lacrosse team, and everything that we’re about and kind of the team culture and values we try to build,” he said. “The three parts of the lacrosse team are character, culture, community. That’s something that from your first day when you get here you really try to emulate. … I think my family, a lot. Something that I’ve always thought of that my dad says to my brothers and is, ‘The other fellow first.’ Kind of that mentality of people before yourself.”
After relating the incident to some of the lacrosse coaching staff, McNamara said he addressed his teammates about his good deed on lacrosse coach Kevin Corrigan’s request.
“I told coach about it,“ McNamara said. “After a lift on Friday — it was like three hours after it happened — he had me tell the story to the whole team. I kind of wrapped it up with Thanksgiving. It’s a time where we have a lot to be thankful for. The biggest takeaway for me was this kid — 14, 15 years old — making this decision. That’s a circumstance that myself and probably everybody here at Notre Dame hasn’t had to go through. That was something to be thankful for.”
On the whole, McNamara said he was motivated to act due to the many experiences and people he’s encountered in his life, particularly in high school, college and at Camp Tecumseh, a sleepaway camp where he has been both a counselor and a camper.
“It’s cool, being able to reflect on that event you think of all the people from high school, to Notre Dame with the lacrosse team, coach Corrigan, all of my coaches, all of my teammates, people at Camp Tecumseh, all kind of into this one moment where it wasn’t really me reacting,” he said. “It was all of them in this one moment where I didn’t have to make a choice, I just got up and started running after him.”