When 17-year-old Campbell High School junior Mario Alexander is not working, reading or practicing his French, he participates in the Cobb County Police Explorers. That program teaches young people about law enforcement, including some of the skills they will need for a future career as a police officer.
Those skills may have saved two lives on Sept. 9.
Alexander was working in the cafe area of the Target on Cobb Parkway near SunTrust Park when he saw a security guard chasing somebody out of the store.
"The security personnel raised up his arm, he had his arm lifted, and he said 'I've been stabbed, he got me,'" Alexander said. "He threw his arm back, and I saw blood just coming out, just gushing out."
Alexander jumped into action. He remembered his trainers said to always put on gloves at a crime scene, so he snapped on his food safety gloves and ran over to help.
First, he tried to make a tourniquet out of his apron, but he quickly realized the material was unsuitable, so he took off his T-shirt and tore it up to stop the security guard's bleeding.
Not long after, another security guard came in with a stab wound to the neck. Alexander used a towel and gauze from a first aid kit to stanch the blood until Marietta Police and paramedics arrived.
Speaking to the media after the incident, Alexander said thanks should go to the explorers for teaching him first-aid skills and God for helping him stay calm.
"I really don't think I'm a hero," he said. "I give all the credit to the Police Explorers, the Police Department and the Lord. Like I said, if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have been able to apply my training . I was at the right place at the right time to apply those skills."
Alexander's mom, Gabrielle Cummings, said she's proud of her son, but not surprised.
"When I talked to him, I said 'Mario, you're a hero now,'" she said. "He said 'No, mom, I'm not a hero, this is just my calling.' . He's a great young man. Helping is his passion."
Cobb County Police Officer Sara O'Hara, one of the advisers for the Explorers, was not surprised either. She said since he started the program 15 months ago, he has been a model for the other Explorers and has risen up the ranks quickly.
"He's already been blazing the path to be one of our officers since day one . When this came out and I got the email, I was like 'Well of course it's Alexander. Of course it's going to be him,'" she said. "He was already making his footprint . We're definitely proud of him."
Alexander may have some awards and special recognitions coming his way from the Explorers, O'Hara said, more items for an already impressive resume. But when it comes time to apply for a job, the young man said he already knows where he wants to go.
"I'm coming home to the Cobb County Police Department," he said. "This is home, and I'm staying home."
Alexander said he loves to teach others, so he hopes to one day end up at the Cobb County Police Academy, helping to train other future officers.
Marietta Police apprehended a suspect, 27-year-old Michael Leon Thornton of Marietta, the same day of the incident. According to his arrest warrant, police said he was attempting to shoplift an iPhone from the store. The warrant states he pulled out a pocket knife and attacked when the two security guards approached him. The two victims were reported to be recovering from their injuries.
Thornton is being held without bond at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center, charged with felony armed robbery and two felony charges of aggravated assault.
Information from: Marietta Daily Journal, http://mdjonline.com/
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