According to a statement from New Orleans police, the suspect, Pablo Ciscart, 50, allegedly asked the cashier to give him change of a bill and then grabbed money from the open register before bolting for the door. As he approached the door, Ciscart allegedly tried to push the store manager out of the way, but Washington, a former high school football player who is 6 ft. 5 in., 297 lbs., according to his coach, cut him off and engulfed him in what police describe as a “reverse bear hug.”
Ciscart allegedly dropped the cash while Washington restrained him for several minutes until police arrived, the statement says.
Ciscart was arrested and charged with simple robbery and fugitive attachment; police learned he had a warrant from St. Bernard Parish for a similar alleged crime, the statement says. (Information about his plea or whether he has retained an attorney was unavailable as of press time.)
“They told me, ‘You got the job,’ ” he recalls to PEOPLE in a Monday interview during his first shift. “And today, I start.”
Of his Good Samaritan heroics, he says, “It just happened. In my head I wasn’t worried about it. I was just trying to calm the situation.”
He adds: “It was the right thing for me to do because I was raised the right way.”
Courtesy New Orleans Police Department
Hero Applicant a ‘Gentle Giant,’ Says Football Coach
Wesley Heath, who coached Washington at Joseph S. Clark Preparatory School, said Washington is a “gentle giant,” a reputation confirmed by Lajean Hunter, an office administrator, who said, “Everyone knows him as this really big guy, and you never messed with him. But he’s really a big Teddy Bear.”
Washington was known as a peacemaker at the inner-city school. When fights would break out, he would use his size and the respect he commanded to quell the violence.
“I was the big guy on campus, it was up to me to do it,” he says.
He is currently a student at The NET Charter High school, where Heath says he has temporarily “put football down” to focus on academics. Heath is continuing to work with Washington with the goal of getting him into a junior college to play football. “He looks like an NFL player,” Heath says, adding that in addition to his obvious size, Washington is nimble enough to have played on the varsity basketball team.
Washington says he was once adrift in life, struggling with what he described as “an anger problem,” but that he developed a sense of purpose when his daughter was born.
“It was time for me to be a man, not to play around and be a kid,” he says.
Heath says that fatherhood instilled in Washington a fearlessness and moral seriousness. “When you become a father, you do what you need to do to protect your family,” he says.
Washington has leaned on Heath and another coach at Clark, Michael Franklin, as mentors. He says the two are “like fathers to me.”
Heath and Franklin use an inspirational motto with their players, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds: “Hold your weight.” Franklin describes it as “an inspirational concept that encourages people to use their full potential in every area of life.” Washington draws strength from the motto, interpreting it to mean, “Working on your anger, growing and being a better man.”
All of it showed on Saturday. He is proud of the young man he has become. When asked about his future, he said, “I see playing football, working, doing the right thing.”
He added, “I think I’ve come really far.”