Police honor three heroes

The men came to the rescue of a high school student who was being attacked.

Published May 31, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG -- Maintenance man Lance Linton was on his way to pick up some tools when he heard a scream.

It came from an 18-year-old high school student. A suspected serial attacker had him pinned to the ground.

Linton, a father of three, didn't know that the man was suspected of three similar attacks. He had no idea if the man had a gun.

Still, Linton didn't hesitate. He ran toward the screams.

Police on Wednesday recognized Linton, 43, and two co-workers, Carlos Torres, 48, and Bob Dietrichsen, 47, who shyly accepted certificates of recognition from the police chief. Police credited the men for helping resolve what they called a rare and disturbing case.

"We don't normally tell the public to chase a suspect of a violent crime, but in this case we're very glad they did," police spokesman Bill Proffitt said.

The three men reacted March 20 when a Lakewood High student was attacked while listening to music on headphones as he walked home from school.

Linton, who works at Reserve at Lake Pointe Apartments, heard the victim's screams.

"He was very hysterical," said Linton, who called for help from co-workers on his radio.

Torres heard the call and hopped in a golf cart. Dietrichsen, who was driving to lunch, heard it too and swung his van around.

"I broke a couple of speeding violations there," Dietrichsen said.

Dietrichsen stopped in front of a man running away from the scene whom police identified as Travonti DeBose, 19.

Dietrichsen asked why he was running.

"Cause some crazy Jamaican guy's chasing me," DeBose responded, according to Dietrichsen. He apparently was referring to Linton.

Dietrichsen grabbed a wallet from DeBose, which belonged to the victim, before DeBose took off again. But the chase ended when the workers trapped the suspect in a dead end.

Two of the workers held DeBose, who Linton said was "crying like a little baby," while the other called police from the high school.

"When I finally caught up to him, Lance had him in a choke hold, which was a good thing," Dietrichsen said. "He was a big guy."

Jail records show DeBose is 6 feet tall and weighs 240 pounds. He was booked on sexual battery and strong-arm robbery charges. Authorities have subsequently charged him with armed sexual battery in connection with another case in which a high school student was attacked. Police continue to investigate two other similar attacks.

Sgt. Katy Connor-Dubina, who runs the crimes against children unit, told the workers they made the difference in this case.

"It takes good, old-fashioned citizen involvement sometimes," she said.

Once the case is closed, the men will be eligible to split a $2,000 reward offered by the company, said apartment property manager Trevor Davison.

"I think they're heroes," Davison said.

The victim and his father also thanked the men shortly after the attack.

Now the workers call themselves "the little heroes" or "the three amigos," when they chat around the maintenance shop. They insisted they didn't need a reward for their actions that day.

Said Linton, "If something like that happened to my kids, I'd hope somebody was around."

Stephanie Garry can be reached at (727) 892-2374 or sgarry@sptimes.com.