WATERTOWN — Penny Hicks, who has lived in Watertown next to a soldier for about a year, witnessed her neighbor tell a thief he picked the wrong street to break into vehicles, moments after he wrestled him to the ground and disarmed the criminal’s knife from his hand.
Ms. Hicks was letting her dog outside at around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday. She was sitting on her porch when she saw two young people wearing backpacks walking down her street.
One by one, Ms. Hicks witnessed a man attempt to enter the vehicles in each driveway as they made their way to her home. The second person, an unidentified woman who would later flee, followed behind. Ms. Hicks said she witnessed the man approach three locked vehicles and one unlocked, from which he stole items.
“They had to have seen me, my light was on,” Ms. Hicks said. “I kept thinking, ‘What happens if they keep on going and come to my house?’”
Shortly before they got to Ms. Hicks’ house, her next-door neighbor, Jesse Fortes, stopped the man. They engaged in a short conversation — Mr. Fortes near his front door and the thief in the road, Ms. Hicks said, witnessing from her porch. She said Mr. Fortes, who’s in the military and works at Fort Drum, was calm until the man threatened his life.
“At first, I thought he was just going to tell the guy to get on his way,” Ms. Hicks said. “But that changed when the guy told Mr. Fortes he was going to put a bullet in his head.”
The man who allegedly threatened Mr. Fortes is a 24-year-old self-proclaimed homeless man named Patrick A. Francis. City police would go on to charge Mr. Francis with first-degree robbery, second-degree assault, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and petit larceny.
After Mr. Francis made the threat, Mr. Fortes walked to the road to address it, Ms. Hicks said.
“The kid stood there saying, ‘Come on, come on,’ edging Jesse on,” Ms. Hicks said. “The kid was standing in the middle of the road in a fighting stance.”
Ms. Hicks said it never appeared Mr. Francis had a firearm, but he did have a knife, which he used to stab Mr. Fortes in the hand and forearm. Mr. Fortes began fighting back and wrestling Mr. Francis to the ground. That’s when Ms. Hicks dialed 911 and ran into the house to alert her son-in-law, Gary Brinker.
Mr. Brinker said Mr. Fortes already had the thief on the ground by the time he came outside. The two were wrestling, each with a hand on the knife, Mr. Brinker said.
“I was like, ‘Jesse, get the knife,” Mr. Brinker recalls saying to Mr. Fortes. “I told him I said, ‘Hey man, toss the knife, toss the knife’ — to kind of free it up out of his hand so if the guy started wrestling with him, he didn’t have to worry about the knife.”
Mr. Brinker, an Army veteran, grabbed the knife.
“[Francis] told Jesse he’s broke and Jesse told him to get a job application,” Mr. Brinker said. “And then we just sat there waiting for the police, basically, because Jesse pretty much had him. The kid squirmed again, so Jesse kind of just rolled with him, let him get to his feet, and as soon as he got to his feet, Jesse pushed him up against a car and then just held him there.”
When the Good Samaritans had Mr. Francis subdued, they recall him making comments to the effect of, “Don’t let me go to jail.”
“The kid’s like, ‘Aw man, I’ll just run away, just let me go, don’t let the cops get me,’” Mr. Brinker said. “And Jesse’s like, ‘Nope, you picked the wrong street at the wrong time.’”
The Times attempted to reach Mr. Francis multiple times, however he was unavailable. Mr. Francis was arraigned in City Court and remanded to the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building on $20,000 bail. His criminal history shows in 2018 he was convicted of second-degree attempted burglary, which made the weapon charge a felony. City police are continuing the investigation. Anyone who believes that their vehicle was broken into should contact city police at (315) 782-2233.