November 1’st 2004 was just a normal evening for Anthony Richards. After teaching his class at Essex Community college he walked towards his van like any other evening looking forward to dinner with his family. But just as he reached his vehicle, a mugger jumped out from behind the van, pointed a gun at the teacher and demanded he open all the doors to the van.
“I didn’t notice anything strange,” Richards said. “I did notice the someone walking on the opposite sidewalk going in the same direction as me but that was not out of the ordinary. The strange thing, in hindsight, is that he just disappeared after a while.”
What the mugger did not know was that Anthony Richards is a brown belt in the Japanese marital art of Shotokan and has dabbled in various other martial arts such as Krav Maga, Tae Kwon Do, Judo, Jujitsu and Aikido. In all those arts Richards focused on techniques that would work in situations such as this one. Another very important tenant in those arts is staying calm.
“I was initially very scared. I think everyone facing sudden death gets scared,” Richards said. “However I knew I had to conquer the fear very, very quickly before it paralyzed me so it lasted just two seconds.”
Richards complied with the mugger and opened the van doors so he could enter. The mugger chose the passenger seat, stuck the gun into Richards’ ribs and told the teacher to drive to an ATM. Richards fastened his seat belt and drove. He had the mugger exactly where he wanted him.
“It would have been fruitless and fatal to resist immediately because he was five feet away,” he said.“I knew I had to device the mugger, lure him into a false sense of confidence. I had him where I wanted him, it is extremely easy to disarm a gun directly against your body.”
Richards drove the van without protest until he reached a red-light. The light turned green and he saw the mugger relax, the moment he had been waiting for. The teacher sprang into action. Moving faster than he thought possible Richards applied a writs lock, a basic Jujitsu technique and kept a hand firm on the cylinder of the gun to prevent it from firing.
“He had a choice to suffer a broken wrist or release the gun. He chose the latter. The moment he let go I pushed him out of the van. Note it was still moving.”
The mugger rose and tried to enter the vehicle again, only to be brought down with a sidekick to his throat by the teacher. Richards pointed the gun at the mugger and warned him not to move. The teacher pulled out his phone to call the authorities but the excitement of the moment prevented him from operating it correctly, allowing the mugger to escape.
“It’s really scary to think about what could have happened,” Mario Richards, Anthony’s oldest son said. “He very easily could have died that day.”
“There’s no one to thank really but God,” Marilyn Richards, his wife, said. “He was with him that day.”
The mugger was not captured but Mr. Richards is not worried.
“I think he learned his lesson that evening,” he said with a smile.