Victim holds down attacker after struggle leads to crash in Fresno

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- There were some frightening moments for a man doing a good deed Monday morning. The man was attacked and then crashed his truck. The 19-year-old suspect is locked up right now for attempted carjacking.

Fresno police say Monday morning he pretended to have a gun as he tried to steal a pickup truck. But he apparently picked the wrong man to attack, because the suspect was soon being held down by the victim.

Jose Tafoya says the suspect, who police have identified as Mardik Mekhtarian, claimed he had a gun hidden in a bag and told Tafoya to get out of his truck.

Tafoya says he didn't want to risk getting shot as he gave up his truck, so he fought back. He's bigger than Mekhtarian and figured he could out muscle him. They struggled and police say Mekhtarian slammed on the gas pedal. That's when the truck lost control and sheared off a utility pole, crashed through a chain-link fence and struck a house.

"This guy just saw my husband as probably an older man, and thought he's an easy target," said the victim's wife Janie Munoz-Tafoya. "He speaks broken English. I can take him or scare him easily. And that'll be the end of that."

Tafoya says the struggle continued outside, among downed utility lines and the rest of the damage. He says Mekhtarian began screaming for help, claiming Tafoya was trying to rape him.

Witnesses didn't buy it and Mekhtarian was held down by Tafoya, and then arrested when police arrived.

"I'm glad that this turned out well and that he's safe," Munoz-Tafoya said. "But it's scary. It's very scary."

Tafoya has a few injures on his head and cuts and bruises on his legs. He's not sure if it's from the struggle or the crash.

All of this, Tayofa says, started with Mekhtarian asking for some spare change and for a ride after providing a sob story about a stolen car, of all things.

Tafoya, knowing what it's like to be down on his luck, was just trying to do a good deed. Something he may not do again.

"Not do it again," Munoz-Tafoya said. "And just have more precaution with the people that come close to you."

Police say Mekhtarian never even had a weapon; he was using a hose nozzle. He's also being held on a parole warrant and police say he was arrested last June for robbery.

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