Taxi driver Ralph Valletta had a gun pointed at him during an armed robbery on March 7 in Reading, Pennsylvania. The frightening incident was caught on the cab's surveillance camera (video below).
In the video, an 18-year-old man, identified by police as Victor Martinez-Herrera, aimed the weapon at Valletta, who frantically tried to explain that he had just started his shift and didn't have any money, noted the Reading Eagle.
“We can do this the hard way, or we make this the easy way, man,” the masked robber told Valletta. “Let me see your wallet, and let me see your phone. I need it all right now if you don’t want to die, man.”
Valletta repeatedly told the robber that he just started his shift and didn't have any money.
“He's yelling he wants money, and all I had were 11 dollars in one pocket for change,” Valletta told the Reading Eagle. “I reached into one pocket and handed him the 11 dollars, and he's screaming, ‘Give me the rest of the money. I know you got more money.'”
Valletta provided his wallet, driver's license and medical insurance card.
“I look into the mirror and I'm scared to death at this point,” Valletta added. “I'm worried he's going to shoot me. He said, ‘I don't want to shoot you but I will.'”
During his tough talk, the masked robber failed to notice a police car behind the cab.
Berks County Sheriff's Deputy Terry Ely saw that the cab was double-parked and stalled at a green light.
“It sounded like people talking loud or some kind of an argument coming from inside of the cab, but sometimes you just blow those things off,” Ely recalled. “The commotion was still going on, so I made it a point to put on my emergency lights.”
“It was like a vision of God when I saw those lights,” Valletta stated.
Officer Ely said:
Right when I hit the door, I heard the driver say, ‘Please don't shoot me,' and, ‘He has a gun to my head.' I immediately bent down and pulled my firearm out because I noticed he had a hood over his face when he looked over at me. I noticed the money in his hand and a black object in his right hand, and I started ordering him to drop the gun and get out of the car.
Ely pulled the suspect out of the car and dropped him on the ground.
With the tables turned, the masked man stated, “It's not real, it's not real.”
The arrest was very real, but the suspect's gun turned out to be a pellet gun made to look like a real firearm.
“Thank God it wasn't a real gun, because I would have been in a really bad situation,” Ely added. “I had no clue what was going on in that car — no idea.”
Martinez-Herrera has been charged with robbery, terroristic threats and a weapons offense.
Valletta shook Ely's hand after the incident, and even gave him a bear hug as thanks.
“He’s a very, very, very lucky man,” Curtis Stricker, president of Reading Metro Taxicab, told Huffington Post.
According to Stricker, his cab driver returned to work later that same day and finished his shift.