When Oak Creek police took a 25-year-old South Milwaukee man into custody in connection with a bank robbery Saturday, they did so in large part thanks to an alert security guard at Caterpillar who saw someone matching the suspect's description.
Earlier this week I exchanged a few emails with that security guard, Josh Najda, and asked him how he spotted the man.
Najda is a firefighter with the town of Vernon who was off duty at the time but listening to his police scanner about 11 a.m., when word came of a robbery of TCF Bank in Oak Creek.
He heard the initial description of the suspect — a white man with thin build, wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and tan pants — and filed it away in his memory.
Later that day, he was at his job at Caterpillar's South Milwaukee facility when he saw a person walk past his guard house and speak with a CAT employee.
The man seemed nervous and made a lot of unusual movements, Najda told me. But his actions didn't pose a threat, so Najda didn't call police.
"Honestly, I just thought that he may have been talking to a family member," Najda said.
It was what he did next that gave Najda pause. The man put on a fake black mustache and a pair of sunglasses, which struck Najda as weird (rightfully so, I might add). So he wrote down his exact description and tucked it into his pocket.
About 6 p.m., Najda went to Oak Creek Patch (hey, his words, not mine) and read our story about the bank robbery. That's where he saw photos of the suspect — including the one in which he's wearing sunglasses and a fake black mustache.
"I knew for sure that was him because I was shaken," Najda said. "He did change his appearance a little, but not much."
The rest of the dominos soon fell: Najda called the Oak Creek Police Department, a detective found the employee with whom the suspect was talking, and police took the man into custody about midnight.
The suspect is awaiting charges from the Milwaukee County District's Office. None had been filed as of 3 p.m. Thursday, according to online court records.
Najda said he got a call the next morning from police thanking him for how accurate his description was and said he would get some kind of commendation from the city or PD.
Here's hoping the police department follows through on a commendation well deserved.