OAKLAND -- Before Monday morning, Robb Revelli had never met the 90-year-old Central Valley widow.
Now they have a lifetime bond.
Revelli reacted Monday morning after a man knocked the woman to the ground at an East Oakland gas station and stole her wallet before running off. Revelli drove the woman in her car after the man, finally catching him a few blocks away in a backyard, wrestling with him for at least 10 minutes until police arrived.
Revelli was one of three Good Samaritans, who in a six-hour period Monday morning chased down and caught suspects who police say robbed or tried to rob women in different parts of Oakland. One of the suspects turned out to be a 16-year-old boy armed with what turned out to be a BB gun.
All three suspects have been charged with robbery or attempted robbery.
Police spokeswoman Officer Johnna Watson commended the three Good Samaritans but said they took significant risks. "We're glad for the community involvement, but we remind people their individual safety is paramount."
Revelli, 36, a carpenter and ex-rugby player from Oakland, said he was leaving a gas station mini mart in the 10600 block of MacArthur Boulevard about 8 a.m. Monday "as the woman was hitting the ground." She had become lost driving home from a family gathering in Hayward.
Revelli said the woman was "yelling in pain. I thought she had broken her hip. I asked her if she wanted to go to a hospital or if she wanted to catch (the man). She said 'let's catch him!'"
Revelli, the woman, who did not want her name used, and his puppy got into the woman's car and drove off after the man, catching up to him as he hopped a fence on nearby Talbot Avenue.
Revelli got out of the car and chased the man, capturing him in another yard. "I caught him in a headlock, and he started throwing money at me. He kept fighting the whole time. I had scratches on my face."
He said some people looked out from their homes but no one helped him before police arrived. The suspect was identified as Damarea Johnson, 27, of Oakland, who refused to talk to police.
Revelli said the woman was "super thankful but she was also my partner. Without her, we wouldn't have caught him."
He said he does not consider himself a hero. Friends have told him they would not have done what he did, which was disappointing to him, as is the fact that no one else helped. "More people need to stand up to those things."
He said he would do the same thing again. "I've lived in Oakland my whole life. It goes with the territory. I don't follow those rules of 'don't talk to police or don't help.' I know what police go through now."
The woman said Wednesday, "I was scared. That minute I didn't feel anything. I was shaking, I was out of breath. I prayed."
She said she was so nervous she could not use her cellphone. She said a woman in the area called police for her on the phone after Revelli ran from the car.
The woman said what Revelli did "was wonderful. I don't know how to say thank you. He exposed his own life.
"I consider him a hero. I didn't think anyone would do that for somebody. It's a good feeling."
The first attack happened about 5:40 a.m. Monday in the 2700 block of Harrison Street where a 29-year-old woman was walking to work. She was confronted by two people, one the 16-year-old armed with the BB gun, who she said tried to grab her cellphone and purse. The woman's screams scared them off and they ran away empty-handed, police said.
A 27-year-old man jogging nearby heard the screams and chased the youth with the BB gun. The youth dropped the gun, which was picked up by the jogger before he captured him in the 200 block of Oakland Avenue.
The boy told investigators he needed money to buy shoes. Police are looking for his accomplice.
About 11:41 a.m. Monday in the 3600 block of International Boulevard in the Fruitvale district, a 40-year-old Concord woman was with her husband and son getting medicine for the boy. A man tried to snatch a gold necklace from the woman's neck but ran off when he could not grab it. The husband chased the man but lost him. A 44-year-old man then pursued the suspect inside St. Elizabeth Church, 1500 34th Ave., where he was caught. He was identified as Joel Vazquez-Saldana, 20, who police said admitted trying to take the necklace to get money to buy a present for his child.