Tackling justice

Vikings tight end chases, catches thief

Taylor Martinek, a tight end for the Portland State Vikings football team, has a knack for besting opponents.

Vikings tight end chases, catches thief

Taylor Martinek, a tight end for the Portland State Vikings football team, has a knack for besting opponents. 


And on June 11, one victory said less about his prowess as a footballer than it did about his character as a natural Good Samaritan.  

Late that morning, MAX commuters and downtown passersby saw some vigilante-inspired excitement as Martinek, on his usual commute to school, witnessed Tyler Adams, 18, allegedly steal a smart phone from a young woman and flee near the MAX stop at Southwest Fifth Avenue and Morrison Street. 

“I was standing there, and some girl was standing in front of me, and I just saw some guy come out of nowhere and take her phone right out of her back pocket, and then just started taking off down toward the courthouse,” Martinek said. 

The scene remained tense as the woman chased Adams, but she soon fell behind, he remembered. Without thinking, the 6’3,” 220-pound sociology junior gave pursuit to the suspected thief. “It was just impulse; I kind of just took off,” Martinek said in a phone interview. “I had flip-flops on, so I just kicked them off and started running barefoot down the street.”

Following a brief chase, Martinek said, he was able to catch up with Adams: “I grabbed him and I threw him against the pillars up there and I hit him a couple of times, and he tried to get away so I actually grabbed him and kind of threw him into one of those water fountains they have down there with the beavers and the geese.”

After this, others in the vicinity began to congregate, Martinek said. He added that, after one final escape attempt, Adams was put down by Martinek’s arm-behind-the-back police technique and was held down until the police arrived and arrested him.

A 2012 roster picture of Martinek shows a boyish face, a smile and a vague trace of stubble. His listed hobby is gardening. But according to acquaintances, Martinek’s gentle features and pastimes should not be underestimated.  

“He’s always putting himself out there…he’s always looking for opportunities to help others. He’s a great kid, I wasn’t surprised at all,” said communications studies senior Gage Loftin, a fellow tight end.  

Tight ends coach Matt Leunen echoed the sentiment, saying he wasn’t surprised by Martinek’s actions. “He always looks out for people; he puts people in front of himself,” Leunen said.

It is tempting to look to Martinek’s upbringing under the eyes of his father, Assistant Chief Brian Martinek of the Portland Police Bureau. What kind of person does it take to do something like this? Martinek is less eager to jump to conclusions, observing that it was more the subconscious presence of his upbringing than his father’s vocation that played a role.

But when asked about his experience on the football team, Martinek was quick to answer: “Yeah, that definitely helped. Being athletic enough to catch up to the guy and big enough and strong enough to hold him down…I’m sure it helped.”

Sergeant Pete Simpson, a spokesman for the PPB, said this kind of public involvement is inevitable and not necessarily frowned upon. However, PPB maintains the importance of weighing the relevant factors on a case-by-case basis. 

“The police bureau encourages witnesses of a crime to first call 911 so that officers can get started toward the incident. The actions of Good Samaritans are appreciated as long as they aren’t putting themselves in harm’s way. In this case, Taylor and others worked to restrain the suspect while police were en route,” Simpson said.

“What we do hope people understand is that if they are going to get involved in something like this, that they need to weigh their options and their abilities before jumping in to help. It’s not much different than what we expect from our officers…if 10 people are fighting, we would not encourage a police officer to enter the fracas to stop it if the officer were alone. From the reports I read and saw, it sounds like Taylor was very comfortable getting involved based on his physical abilities, and because he and others jumped in to help, we were able to make an arrest,” Simpson continued.

At press time, Adams faces a robbery charge and is being held on $5,000 bail.