NEW YORK — "Get him!" The scream came from the mouth of a woman knocked to the ground, while a guy with a backpack ran away.
Lawrence Abdullah had simply been going out for a bite with his friend Mahdi Whareed. Suddenly, they found themselves running after the man through Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood. They caught up with him about six blocks later.
The man, police later said, was a suspect wanted for groping little girls in the neighborhood. The woman was a plainclothes detective who had tried to question him and was knocked down, her shoulder dislocated.
Abdullah, of course, didn't know any of that, he said Friday as he and Whareed were honored for bravery by the New York Police Department. He just thought maybe the guy had stolen her bag.
"We just knew we were chasing someone who was doing something unlawful," he said.
After catching him, he asked the man why he was running, and the man insisted the woman had tried to take his driver's license.
"I asked him, well, let me see the ID, and at first he didn't want to show me, and I said I can't leave until you give me the ID," Abdullah said.
He snapped a photo of the man and the license, and the man left.
Abdullah, 40, an apparel designer, and Whareed, 22, a student, backtracked to where the woman was, but she was nowhere to be found. She was hospitalized but was expected to recover.
"So we just left and ate," he said.
The next day, he saw sketches of the man in media reports and realized what was going on — so he went to the local precinct house and asked to speak to a detective. The officer asked him whether he knew the suspect.
"I said, 'I don't know the guy, but I'll tell you my story,'" Abdullah said.
"Please tell me you have the ID," the detective asked, according to Abdullah.
"I said yes, and he said, 'Oh, great!'"
Police tracked the suspect, 34-year-old Jesse Dailey, to near his home, where he was arrested Wednesday. He was arraigned Thursday on charges of sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child, as well as assault. Police said he groped an 11-year-old girl out walking her dog and is linked to other child gropings. His lawyer had no comment.
In a small ceremony at the NYPD headquarters, police Commissioner Raymond Kelly presented Abdullah and Whareed with citations for civic-mindedness and bravery as their families happily looked on.
"Their actions exemplify the courage and bravery that makes us all proud to be New Yorkers," Kelly said. "And it is another reminder that every day we are surrounded by heroes."
Abdullah said he doesn't think of himself as a hero.
"I feel like I was just doing what was supposed to be done," he said.