Patriots lineman Justin Herron intervenes to stop sexual assault in Arizona park

Herron and a Phoenix resident broke up the attack of a 71-year-old woman and detained the suspect.

Justin Herron Patriots
New England Patriots offensive lineman Justin Herron watches from the sideline against the San Francisco 49ers last season. –Charles Krupa/AP

New England Patriots offensive lineman Justin Herron proved he protects more than just quarterbacks this weekend.

Herron was honored Wednesday as one of two men who intervened to stop a sexual assault at Kiwanis Park in Tempe, Arizona on Saturday, freeing the 71-year-old victim from her attacker and detaining the suspect until police arrived.

“If not for the swift actions of Mr. Justin Herron and Mr. Murry Rogers, this vicious attack could’ve been much worse,” Tempe police Detective Natalie Barela said at a Wednesday press conference detailing the incident.

Herron is currently in Arizona for offseason training and reportedly was at the park when he heard screaming. He then saw the attacker push the elderly victim to the ground and attempt to remove the woman’s pants, as he later described to police.

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“At that moment, I was in shock,” he said. “It was 11 a.m., middle of the day, in a very open field and the fact that it happened there at that time was just very shocking. I wish I could tell you what I was thinking, but I could just tell someone needed help. All I could do was rush myself over there to make sure I could help the victim and I could comfort her and be the best person I can be.”

At that point, he and Rogers, a Phoenix resident whom Herron had never met but was also in the park that day, ran toward the confrontation.

“I’m a football player, I’m kind of big,” said Herron, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs about 300 pounds. “I try not to be too aggressive with people knowing I could potentially hurt somebody. I do have a loud voice. I yelled, told him to get off of her, and then yanked him off and I told him to sit down and I told him to wait until the cops come.”

The Tempe Police Department presented Herron and Rogers with Outstanding Service Awards for their actions.

Herron said he had no experience in dealing with crisis situations before, but “my parents always talked to me about it, if there’s someone in need, make sure you can help them and be the best you can be.

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“I don’t want this to happen again, I don’t want to have to save someone else’s life again, but I’m glad I was able to save someone’s life on Saturday.”

Herron and Rogers were able to formally meet the unidentified victim after the attack, something Herron said he “never thought in a thousand years” would happen.

“It was heartwarming to see her, but also gut-wrenching to see how she responded to the trauma and how she’s dealing with it,” he said. “No one should go through that. No one. She has a great support system, and I’m glad that she has that support system. It was emotional for me. It was emotional for everybody in the room to see her.”

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