Army veteran honored for saving woman from assault with his karate staff

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Ricardo Delano Whitehead, third from left, was honored by Live Oak officials and the Sutter County Sheriff's Office at Wednesday's City Council meeting for intervening in an attack last month. (Courtesy Sutter County Sheriff's Office)

Ricardo Delano Whitehead isn't your average 69-year-old. Despite being just a few weeks shy of 70, the U.S. Army veteran still practices martial arts. In his younger years, he even taught it to an Army battalion at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

On Feb. 13, Whitehead happened upon a man he saw tackle a woman before repeatedly punching her in the doorway of a Live Oak, California business. Whitehead yelled at the suspect to leave the woman alone, at which point the other man turned his attention on the veteran.


Before the suspect could confront him, Whitehead had retrieved a wooden karate staff from the trunk of his vehicle and used it to keep the suspect at a distance. Enough time had been given for the victim to get away, and when the suspect again tried to chase her down, Whitehead distracted him by telling him the police had been notified. That's when the suspect reportedly brandished a knife from his pocket and pointed it at Whitehead, though a confrontation was prevented when police arrived and arrested the other man.

"It was just instinct to do something," Whitehead said. "I was protecting myself and my wife, and I'm glad the other woman was able to get away safely."

Whitehead said he was in the right place at the right time.

"I'm happy I had my karate staff with me. If I didn't, he had his blade in hand and wanted me bad," Whitehead said.

Sutter County Undersheriff Scott Smallwood said Whitehead's bravery to put himself in harm's way for someone he doesn't know didn't go unnoticed by the department.

"It takes a community and its citizens to work with us to make sure the entire community is safe, we cannot do it alone," Smallwood said. "We don't ask people to put themselves in harm's way, but (Whitehead's) act alone is an example of someone who cares about this community and about his people. For someone to do that, that's important. We are honored and proud of the gentleman."

Whitehead was recognized at the Live Oak City Council meeting on Wednesday night, where he received a letter of appreciation from the sheriff and a proclamation presented by council members "for his bravery and willingness to get involved and do the right thing by putting the safety of the female victim ahead of his own."

"It shows a lot of courage and good character on his part," said Live Oak Mayor Lakhvir Ghag. "If more people did what he did, trying to help others when in trouble or even make a phone call to get police there, I think it would make our community much safer."

Whitehead said the commendation felt good, but being recognized was the furthest thing from his mind at the time. He just wanted to stop something bad from happening and his instincts kicked in. He hopes others would do the same when needed.

"If a crime is being committed, I believe that as a citizen if we can do something to help, not endangering our own lives or others, we should just do it," Whitehead said. "Whether it is making a phone call, yelling out for help or getting the attention of other people, if we can do something, no matter what, we should do our best."

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©2019 the Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, Calif.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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