When a Massachusetts teen saw eight other teenagers huddled around a younger kid, he used his martial arts training to protect him.
Roman Rodriguez,16, was leaving Holyoke Temple and Fitness, where his father is an instructor, last Monday when he spotted a group of teens surrounding a mentally disabled boy.
"When I saw the situation, it immediately bothered me," Rodriguez told MassLive. "I saw he was crying. Everyone should be appreciated for who they are as a person, not made fun of."
Rodriguez, who has a purple belt, approached the group and told the main aggressor to leave the kid alone.
"I told them I didn't want any trouble, I just wanted to walk him home," he said. "This, I guess, provoked him."
The aggressor was younger than Rodriguez, only 14, but he was much bigger – approximately 6 feet tall and 220 pounds.
So when the 14-year-old, indentified only as “Angel,” tried to hit Rodriguez, he decided to restrain him rather than throw punches.
"He's a lot bigger than me, so I only knocked him down and restrained him," he said. "I wanted to avoid things getting worse."
When he let Angel go, the younger teen ran off, with his group of friends following him. Over his shoulder, he threatened to stab or shoot Rodriguez.
Rodriguez promptly went back into the fitness center and told his father, Ricardo Rodriguez, what had happened. Ricardo Rodriguez came outside with his son only to find Angel had returned with a large kitchen knife and his mother.
"I witnessed this kid's mother encourage her son to stab mine," Ricardo Rodriguez said. "She was instigating a fight. My first reaction was to protect my son, but also to avoid any kind of tragedy."
Holyoke police arrived within minutes, and the 14-year-old was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon. The teen’s mother, Jomery Rivera, was charged with disorderly conduct.
Ricardo Rodriguez said he was proud of what his son did.
"Just as I taught him, he defended someone who couldn't defend himself,” he said.
A boy who witnessed the incident, 11-year-old Timothy Colón, was so impressed he presented Roman Rodriguez with a certificate of recognition.