MANATEE — A few Manatee veterans took it upon themselves to foil a robbery in which a knife-wielding man attempted to steal money from a Disabled American Veterans bar Sunday afternoon.
To make matters worse, the attempted robbery took place as the Chapter 18 DAV was having a memorial service for one of its own who recently passed away.
But authorities say Frederick McGhee, 34, of Sarasota, did not make it far with the money bag after DAV, American Legion, Eagles and Elks members gave chase from the DAV branch in the 100 block of 63rd Avenue West.
“They went after him on their motorcycles, trucks, cars, whatever they had,” said Tina Fletcher, a bartender at the time of the attempted robbery.
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Manatee County Sheriff’s Office reports say at around 3:45 p.m., McGhee, who is known to DAV members but not a member, walked behind the bar and grabbed the money bag. When a DAV member tried to stop him, McGhee swiped at the veteran with a large knife and took off, according to sheriff’s reports.
DAV Senior Vice Commander John Eagen said members of an American Legion color guard serving in the memorial service jumped on their motorcycles and gave chase.
McGhee made it a few blocks before several vets tackled him and held him until sheriff’s deputies arrived and arrested him on charges of armed robbery and aggravated assault. The veterans recovered all of the money.
“We are just glad no one was hurt,” said Eagen. “We had a lot of people here for the memorial service so he picked a bad night to do this.” The incident put a scare into members who attended the memorial service for DAV member Lawrence Kahlmorgan Jr., which his son, Kevin, came from Indiana to attend.
“People were really upset, coming up to apologize to me for what happened,” Kahlmorgan said. “But it’s not their fault. There is no way you can predict what people are going to do.”
Fletcher said she is just glad no one was hurt and the veterans recovered the money.
“I just want to say thanks to the dedication of all the disabled veterans and other groups for what they did tonight,” she said.
McGhee was being held in the Manatee County jail Sunday night without bond. He was recently released from prison in January on forgery and dealing in stolen property convictions, according to Florida Department of Corrections records.