WINTHROP, Maine — Jack Simpson was a standout player at Brighton High School, Brighton, who couldn’t continue his football career at the University of Memphis where he is a student because of injuries. But that didn’t keep him from tackling a fleeing suspect being chased by cops here on June 28, where he is serving as a Tennessee Baptist Convention summer missionary.
The robbery suspect had just slammed his vehicle into two moving vehicles in this small town about 150 yards from Cornerstone Community Church. Simpson with fellow missionary Matt Perkins of Memphis and Scott Story, pastor, rushed out of the church. Police cars screeched to a halt. The suspect jumped out of his SUV and began running and the police continued chasing him on foot.
Simpson, 19, said the man was about 30 yards away from him when he heard someone yell “Get him.” Simpson took off and tackled the man into a parked vehicle.
Immediately observers surrounded them, said Simpson, and he didn’t really have to wrestle the man to hold him for the police.
Spokesman for the Maine State Police Steve McCausland told the Kennebec Journal that the suspect was seen by a trooper wearing a mask in a parking lot near the Bank of Maine in the city of Manchester. The trooper confronted the man who jumped into his vehicle and took off leading the police on a high speed chase which ended on Main Street in Winthrop after the driver struck a tow truck and a UPS truck and fled on foot. Following the help from Simpson and other residents, he was arrested.
All of this occurred at noon time when a lot of residents were in the downtown area eating lunch.
One of the observers, Laurie Tompkins, owner of Becky’s Second Time Around, praised Simpson’s actions according to the Kennebec Journal.
“I saw him tackle this man and throw him to the ground and wrestle with him until the state cops got there,” Tompkins said. “He is really a hero as far as I’m concerned. We’re really fortunate no one was hurt or killed.”
When it was all over, Simpson was hurt more than the suspect though it was minor compared to experiences during his football career, he said, which he had to end because of a back injury. “I took a lot bigger hits in football than hitting a truck,” he said. Simpson’s cheek was bruised from hitting the side mirror of the truck and his shoulder was bruised. Oddly, his glasses were untouched by the incident and were found under the truck folded, reported Simpson.
He was careful when tackling the man, he said, because he has been told by coaches he doesn’t know his own strength.
“I didn’t want to hurt him. I just wanted him to stop.
“I kind of just did what I was raised to do — the right thing.” He added that he did think the suspect might have a weapon, but he decided to help anyway.
Simpson is a new Christian having made the commitment Jan. 26 at a Baptist Collegiate Ministries event at the University of Memphis. He had never attended the BCM before that night, said Simpson, and wasn’t attending church. He was invited by some friends.
Now he is active at the BCM and an active member of Gateway Baptist Church, Atoka. At the BCM he learned about the opportunity to be a TBC summer missionary. He also participated in his first missions trip in April during spring break through the BCM.
The last six months as a Christian have been amazing, he said, especially his summer missionary experience. Residents who are fellow Christians have helped him and his fellow missionaries in many sacrificial ways, he reported. A fellow summer missionary received free dental care from a dentist. And he has received free help from a chiropractor for some back strain after a lot of walking.
After the incident in Winthrop several residents of the town came up to him and thanked him and shook his hand, he said.
The rest of his time in Winthrop he was well-known. He and a small team of missionaries were there for a week helping Cornerstone Community Church conduct a Vacation Bible School.
He also has heard from fellow missionaries and friends and family back home via phone, Facebook and texting because of the incident.
“All of that is cool,” he said. But the best result of his involvement in the police chase and apprehension of the suspect was that he was identified as a missionary from out-of-state which is a witness for Jesus, he said.
Simpson thinks of the suspect who is a young man like him. “I just wish that he knew Jesus. Maybe this might be something that will turn him around.”
Jeff Jones, BCM director at the University of Memphis, commented about Simpson, “It’s been a real treat to watch Jack grow so quickly in his relationship with Christ. His introduction to the gospel through other students involved at the BCM was exciting.
“Jack’s heart for the Lord is contagious and I’m thankful that God is using these headlines to spread the name and fame of Jesus in the New England area.”
Jones continued, “Jack gave his summer to serve and has already discovered that God does great things in and through our lives when we submit ourselves to His leadership.”