James Kilcer: Ex-Marine in 'Let's go Brandon' shirt takes award for stopping robbery
James Kilcer was presented with the Citizen’s Valor Award in light of his bravery during the incident
A US Marine Corps veteran who stopped an attempted armed robbery at an Arizona convenience store wore a "Let's go Brandon" t-shirt as the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office bestowed an award for his "extraordinary heroism and exceptional courage".
James Kilcer, 32, was presented with the Citizen’s Valor Award on Tuesday, October 26, in light of his bravery during the October 20 incident. Sheriff Leon Wilmot said Kilcer was commemorated for his "extraordinary heroism and exceptional courage while voluntarily coming to the aid of another citizen during an incident involving criminal activity at extreme, life-threatening, personal risk in an attempt to save or protect human life." The Sheriff's Office describes the award as the "highest award for citizens whose actions warrant recognition."
The 'Let's Go Brandon' meme originated on October 3 when NBC sports reporter Kelli Stavast was interviewing NASCAR driver Brandon Brown at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama after the racer scored his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series victory. Stavast was caught on camera reporting that the crowd at the stands behind were chanting "Let's go, Brandon!" when in reality they were chanting "F**k Joe Biden." The phrase has since become an anti-establishment slogan.
Kilcer, who also sported a red 'Make America Great Again' cap while accepting the award, told Fox News' "America's Newsroom" last week that he takes the safety of himself and others around him "very seriously". "I turn around to go and leave, kind of walk out and as I'm turning around I hear the door kind of open real aggressively," Kilcer recalled. "At that point, the ‘spidey senses’ tingled a little bit." Three unidentified suspects stormed into the store with an armed frontman leading the way. "I saw two other guys with no other weapons and decided that's the guy that I'm going to hit," Kilcer said.
The veteran proceeded to grab the gun and without hesitation hit the other suspects with a bag containing his store purchases — all in one motion. He said his bag included two Gatorades, two energy drinks, and "a snack". "I was actually going to take control of his head and the gun at the same time, and the bag just happened to be heavy and attached to me and it smashed him right in the face," Kilcer said. “I was ready. I saw it coming. The minute my hands closed around it, I never lost contact with the gun. And I pulled him down," he explained.
While Kilcer held the suspect down until law enforcement arrived, the gas station clerk — albeit "a little worked up" — jumped over the counter to chase the suspects. Responding officers arrested the armed juvenile suspect and took him to the Yuma County Juvenile Justice Center on one count each of armed robbery and aggravated assault.
Having said that, while Kilcer's actions were heroic, they are not recommended for just anyone thinking they can take down an armed individual, per Chief Donnie Lucas with the YPG Police Department. “The law enforcement community advises non-trained civilians, non-combatant civilians who have not been through any law enforcement course or de-arming course or some military-type training, not to engage an armed gunman, or an armed suspect with a knife, or a machete, or any other weapon,” he said. “In most cases, it would be better if you complied with the request that they are making.”
It's worth noting that Kilcer served as a tactical air operations technician in the Marine Corps and was deployed to Afghanistan during his time in the military. He credited his spontaneous actions to his Marine Corps basic training and mindset. “Being in that mindset of if something happens, I will have to and will react appropriately,” he explained. “I was just ready. I really didn’t know how fast I reacted.” Meanwhile, Kilcer has also received awards from the Marine Corps, Chevron, American Legion, and the Yuma community for his bravery.