In May 2011 Eddie Peoples, a soldier in the U.S. Army, took a short leave of absence from his tour of Iraq in order to visit his sick father-in-law. And while home, he likely hoped to spend as much time as possible with his wife and four young sons. However, the military man and two of his boys would soon find themselves staring at the barrel of a gun.
Peoples is a U.S. Army staff sergeant and has dedicated at least ten years of his life to serving his country. This period has included carrying out multiple tours of duty in countries such as Iraq and Kuwait. However, back home, the dad resides in Sarasota, Florida, with his wife and children.
And although it is safe to assume that Peoples’ family are very proud of him, it is extremely likely that the soldier is greatly missed when he is away on duty. What’s more, U.S. Army tours can last as long as 15 months, and leaving young children behind for that period of time may be very difficult.
Nevertheless, that sacrifice was clearly one that the soldier was prepared to make in order to protect his country and the people within it – including his sons. And on one fateful day in May 2011, Peoples demonstrated just how far he is willing to go in order to keep his family safe.
On May 31, 2011, Peoples was on leave from a tour in Iraq. His father-in-law was unwell, and so the soldier had returned home to pay him a visit. While back in Florida, moreover, the doting dad had some errands to run, and he decided to take two of his sons along for the ride.
Peoples needed to go to the bank, for one, and although this was perhaps not the boys’ idea of fun, the three of them headed off nonetheless. But it was while the family were at a Bank of America branch that they found themselves in a life-or-death situation. And Peoples was not about to stand idly by and watch events unfold.
Before that, though, Peoples took his son Ikaika and the boy’s younger brother Kioni into the branch and found his children seats. But then the doting dad heard a voice from behind him – and the stranger’s words were enough to frighten any parent.
You see, a man in a green shirt and baseball cap had arrived at the bank shortly after the Peoples family had done. And the individual in question wasn’t just there to complete a simple transaction. Indeed, as soon as the stranger had entered the branch, he made his terrible intentions clear.
Holding a gun, the man demanded that everyone remain still, according to Peoples. And in a 2011 episode of OWN’s Extraordinary Acts of Courage, the soldier recalled the stranger’s haunting words, remembering, “Behind me, I hear someone say, ‘Everyone get down, this is a bank robbery.’” Then, seemingly without a second thought, Peoples turned to his young sons.
And not only did Peoples’ fatherly instinct apparently kick in, but also, it seemed, did his military training. “This isn’t a joke. Get down, get up under the chairs,” he later recalled having told his sons. Then, while the sergeant’s boys did as they were told, Peoples began to construct a makeshift barrier out of nearby furniture in an attempt to protect his children as much as possible.
By this point, though, Peoples had seemingly attracted the attention of the gunman. As a consequence, the father of four later related, he stopped moving and placed his hands where they could be seen in an attempt to appease the wannabe robber. However, this action seemed to achieve little in the way of preventing the stranger from carrying out his heinous crime.
And it would appear that the young family weren’t out of the woods just yet. Reportedly, as the gunman was about to collect his cash, he suddenly turned and aimed his weapon at one of the Peoples boys. And with that, Peoples has explained, came a chilling threat. “‘Don’t anyone try anything, or else the little kiddies gets it,’” the robber allegedly said.
Seemingly, this warning was too much for the dad. And in CCTV footage of the event, Peoples can be seen to take a step toward the robber, adopting an almost protective stance. But the move apparently didn’t go unnoticed, and the gunman’s focus then reportedly shifted from the boy to Peoples himself. With that, though, came yet another threat, according to the sergeant.
In the Extraordinary Acts of Courage episode, the soldier recalled, “[The gunman] said, ‘Hey you… don’t try anything.’” And as if he had taken a normal trip to the bank, the robber then casually left the branch, Peoples related. But, perhaps fueled by his military background – and maybe his love for his children – the father was not prepared to let the bad guy simply slip away unchallenged.
And so, with his children still at the bank, the off-duty sergeant reportedly followed the robber. Peoples later explained that both men had raced towards the parking lot; before either of them could reach their respective vehicles, however, the gunman stopped and threatened the dad once more. But Peoples was not about to back down.
What’s more, out of sheer luck, Peoples had parked closer to the bank than the robber had done, and so he managed to reach his vehicle first. The father of four explained on Extraordinary Acts of Courage that he had then driven straight towards the gunman and his car and managed to stop his adversary from making a getaway. However, the robber seemingly wasn’t going down without a fight. So, getting out of his car, he walked up to Peoples and aimed his gun right at the sergeant’s head.
At this moment, though, Peoples would recall, he utilized his military skills. He grabbed the robber’s wrist and twisted it, preventing the bad guy from firing his weapon. Then Peoples seized the barrel of the gun with the intention of striking the gunman with it. But it was at that point, the dad later said, that he realized the firearm was fake.
So, armed with this knowledge, Peoples reportedly wrestled the gunman to the floor and managed to subdue him. Then Sergeant Alden Doane from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Department turned up at the scene, where he was met with a situation that initially left him uncertain as to whom he was meant to be apprehending. And that’s not surprising. After all, Peoples was now the individual with what appeared to be a gun in one hand and a bag of money in the other; meanwhile, the robber was on the ground.
However, onlookers were quick to inform the officers who the hero was this time. Following this, Doane congratulated the off-duty soldier, according to Peoples. During his Extraordinary Acts of Courage appearance, the military man added, “[Doane] gave me this big old hug, and he said to me, ‘Hey, thanks, brother – I was stuck in traffic.’”
Then the sergeant went to check on his children, who were desperate to know if he’d caught the bad guy. But the police’s gratitude didn’t stop at a simple thank you. Indeed, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office would go on to award Peoples a certificate of recognition – along with the promise of a job after he has finished serving in the U.S. Army.