Intervention: Witnesses deserve praise for saving woman

Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin knows how dangerous it can be for bystanders to interfere when they witness a crime taking place — particularly a violent crime. That is why, for the most part, law enforcement agencies ask witnesses to call 911 and keep themselves removed from such situations. The risk to civilians, who lack the proper training and skill, is simply too great.

But earlier this week, witnesses to an apparent crime felt they had to intervene to defend the victim; and Martin does not disagree.

“Every situation’s going to be different,” Martin said. “We recommend they obviously call us first. But in a situation like this, where it’s obvious the female could not defend herself, that definitely could have taken her life … We don’t promote vigilante altercations, but there’s going to be times where (intervention) is definitely needed.”

A woman who witnesses saw being strangled and beaten, slammed to the ground and kicked … and then picked back up by the neck and choked some more was able to run away from her alleged attacker long enough for the witnesses — who had already called police — to “subdue the suspect onto the ground until we arrived,” according to Martin.

In an era when too many people might have simply pulled out their smartphones and recorded the incident to be posted on social media — removing themselves from the situation by watching it through a screen — one witness and two of his friends had enough common decency and desire to do what was right rather than what was easy that they took action.

Good for them.

Doing so was “a good judgment call on the witnesses’ part to become involved until we got there,” Martin said.

Again, in most situations, such civilian intervention is unwarranted and dangerous. The vast majority of the time, the right thing to do is to call 911 and remain out of harm’s way. But in the case of a woman’s life being at risk, and possibly not enough time to wait for police to arrive before her attacker either escaped or struck again, these three made the right choice, and are to be commended.