Born Heroes

David Logan of Towson didn't hesitate when he spotted an armed robbery in progress. Luckily, the rest of the family was right behind him.

August 21, 1999|By Sarah Pekkanen | Sarah Pekkanen,SUN STAFF

After it was all over, what David Logan remembered was the quiet. Although it happened on a muggy Sunday night in July, the streets were as hushed and still as if it was the morning after a heavy snowfall. The absence of car engines and chatting pedestrians allowed David to clearly hear the voice through the open windows of his blue van.

"Cross now! Cross now!" a man ordered two women, casting a fearful glance back as the trio hurried across Joppa Road in Towson.

David's wife, Lisa, seated next to him in the van, voiced his thoughts: "Something's wrong."

Until that moment at 10 p.m. on July 25, their day had been bittersweet. The Logans, of Towson, and their two sons, Michael, 15, and Bryant, 11, had attended a going-away party for one of Michael's best friends. David and Lisa didn't find it odd that they had been invited to a teen-ager's party. Through the years, as they'd cheered for Michael at football games and wrestling matches, they'd gotten to know his teammates. No matter how tight their budget, their sons' friends were always welcome for dinner. Just tonight, the teen-ager who was moving told Michael he wanted one thing when he came back to visit: Lisa Logan's mashed potatoes.

Lisa's hand, stretched toward the van's back seat, held tightly to Michael's as they reminisced about his friend. When they heard the man's voice, they stopped talking.

Lisa wasn't surprised when David made a U-turn and followed the man into a Texaco station. If someone was in trouble, her husband would help. It was one of the first things she had noticed when she met him in junior high school.

But she wasn't prepared for the man's next words: "I think Popeye's is being robbed!"

David immediately turned the van toward the fast-food restaurant just yards away. He pulled into the parking lot and stopped by the back of the restaurant. Though he couldn't see into the main dining area, neither could his van be spotted by anyone at the counter's cash registers.

All David could see was a glass-enclosed hallway that ran alongside the building, leading past the bathrooms to an exit. Suddenly, through the glass, he watched the door to the women's room inch open.

The employee huddled inside mouthed a frantic message: "Call the police. He's still inside!"

Lisa Logan didn't know that the young woman, named Tiny, was a mother, too, and that's why she had risked her own safety by unlocking the bathroom door. At any minute, Tiny's aunt would arrive to pick her up. With her would be Tiny's year-old daughter. If Tiny wasn't outside, they would enter the restaurant.

Lisa had never seen such terrified eyes.

The Logans didn't have time to form a plan. But instinctively, the family split in different directions. Lisa ran to a nearby restaurant for help. David and Michael moved toward the restaurant's back exit. Little Bryant stayed in the van.

Then, just a few feet from David and Michael, the back door of Popeye's flew open.

Inside the restaurant, a 16-year-old employee named Shnika Jordan lay on the kitchen floor next to three customers and two colleagues.

She had listened as the robber, clad in a black ski mask and wielding a gun, ordered the manager to unlock the safe. "Nobody try anything funny," he'd instructed.

Should she stay quiet? Should she run?

She kept her head down, trembling and praying.

A moment later, the manager entered the kitchen, alone. "He's gone," she said.

Outside, it was just beginning.

The robber pulled off his ski mask and shirt. He stuffed the items into a backpack along with a gun.

Then David Logan slammed into him.

As both men tumbled to the pavement, David locked his arms around the robber's neck and shoulders, pinning the man's left arm to his side. But the man's right hand, clutching the backpack, was free. He swung and connected with David, who at 5 feet 9 inches and 170 pounds was by far the smaller of the two.

Hanging on

The man stood up, with David still hanging onto his neck. One thought remained fixed in David's mind: Don't let him reach into the bag.

Meanwhile, Lisa stood in the middle of an Italian restaurant, shouting for someone to call the police. When a waitress locked the door behind her, Lisa spun around: "Let me out! My family is out there!"

As she ran back toward the parking lot, she noticed two things. One was the unnatural quiet; the streets were completely empty. The second was the sound of a fist smacking flesh -- Michael's fist. He had tackled the robber in a wrestling move, trying to protect his father.

Though David and Michael looked like opposites -- David was blond and wiry; Michael, dark and husky -- the two were undeniably alike.

Both loved sports. Both also rooted for the underdog. Lisa still remembered how David had protected the smallest boys in their junior high school, twins named Vernon and Verdell, from bullies. Just recently, David had phoned in an order to Domino's Pizza. When he gave his name, he was greeted by a delighted yell. Almost two decades later, Verdell still remembered.

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