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He's sore, she's safe

Kevin Jerik thwarted a purse snatching outside of Hugo's grocery store in East Grand Forks on Monday. Herald photo by Eric Hylden.

It's standard practice, Sheila Jerik said, to get her husband on the phone and walk him through the grocery store aisles. On Monday, the day Kevin Jerik foiled a purse snatching and became a local hero, she had special items on her list, things she needed for a birthday party.

But Kevin seemed a little crabby, not quite himself, when he called from the parking lot outside Hugo's in East Grand Forks.

"What's the grocery list?" he asked her -- a little short and snippy, she thought.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

"I'm waiting for the police."

Slight pause ...

"What did you do!?"

In relating the conversation, Sheila Jerik hastened to explain that she didn't automatically assume that her husband had done something wrong or that he routinely has dealings with the police.

"He's very law-abiding," she said, "except that he doesn't like to wear seat belts."

Kevin, 44, told her how he had been sitting in his Dodge pickup truck in the parking lot, waiting for her to call with the shopping list, when he saw a young man in a hooded sweatshirt swoop down on an elderly woman putting groceries in her car.

The young man tried to grab the woman's purse. She resisted.


Jerik jumped from his truck and ran to help her. In the ensuing scuffle, the would-be purse-snatcher punched him two or three times in the jaw and struck him once, hard, in the groin. When Jerik saw a car approaching, driven apparently by the snatcher's accomplice, he let go and jumped out of the way.

The perpetrators drove off. The woman, still clutching her purse, thanked her hero, who returned his focus to the day's domestic assignment: groceries.

A day later, both Jerik and his wife were thankful things didn't turn out worse -- and they are eager to put the episode behind them.

"My phone is ringing every five minutes," a weary Sheila Jerik said.

She was home Tuesday, tending a sick grandchild. Her husband, a mechanic who spends his spare time restoring two old hearses (he likes the look of the big chariots), returned to his maintenance job at the North Dakota Mill & Elevator.

"I want him to go see the doctor," Sheila said. "He has a couple teeth loose, and his jaw hurts. His mouth looks a mess, and he wasn't able to eat or drink when he came home.

"But he's stubborn. Once, he got his foot stuck in a tractor, and he drove himself to the hospital. If he ever broke an arm, he'd just say he sprained it and go on.

"He's a Jerik. They're all like that."

(She said that with affectionate resignation.)

It did not surprise her that Kevin ran to the woman's aid and grappled with the guy trying to steal a purse.

"Of course, he did the right thing," she said. "Given what they did to him, can you imagine what they would have done to that lady?"

Nor did it surprise her that he took a few punches but didn't punch back, instead just trying to restrain the man.

"He was afraid that if he hurt the guy, he'd be hit with an assault charge," she said.

Using restraint

Years ago, Kevin worked as a bouncer at the old Spud Bar, which wasn't always the most tranquil spot in East Grand Forks. "Once in a while, you take a couple punches," he said. "It's no big deal."

In the parking lot Monday, he held the assailant's arm behind his back and pressed his head into his chest, trying to immobilize him.

"People have asked me, 'Why didn't you pound on the guy?' " Jerik said Tuesday as he took a break at work. "But I kept thinking of another incident -- I think I read about it in the paper -- where a guy tried to help someone and here he ends up facing an assault charge himself.

"I just wanted (the woman) to be safe. I know they would have done damage to her."

What about the damage to himself?

"The teeth and the jaw are a little sore," he said. "Nothing major."

The, uh, groin area?


And he's a bit embarrassed by all the attention -- his name on the front page of the newspaper, two laudatory radio interviews before lunch, friends and strangers calling at home and at work to say "Attaboy!"

His union president called at 5:30 a.m., Sheila said, and the fellows at work bought him celebratory doughnuts -- and teased him for being an overnight celebrity.

The Jeriks have four grown children, who apparently share Kevin's reserved nature. Their response after hearing what happened? "Good job, Dad."

"Kevin didn't do this to be a hero," Sheila said. "He's not somebody who likes to be in the limelight. He just likes to be with his buddies.

"But when he sees something bad happen and nobody does anything about it, well, that makes him mad.

"He would do it again."