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Standing in the gap
Local bag boy apprehends shoplifter
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Seventeen-year-old Robert Bradford is a Kroger bag boy being heralded as a hometown hero after tackling a man who punched a fellow female employee in the face.

Bradford was bagging groceries when he saw Jeffery Pace, who had stuffed three packages of tenderloin steaks in the front of his pants, punch a loss prevention associate in the lower jaw and attempt to run out of the store.

"It kind of made me mad that a guy would hit a lady," Robert said, knowing at that point he had to act.

"I know that my dad always taught me to stand in the gap and to stand up for what's right," he said.

Robert said that standing in the gap meant doing the right thing where you see a wrong.

In response to the assault, Robert grabbed Pace, tackling him to the ground.

"I grabbed him and I was telling him to stop. If he stopped, I'd let him go and he kept on fighting. And then, I took him down," Robert said.

After pinning Pace to the ground, Robert heard a voice from his pocket, yelling his name.

"I hear my name being yelled and it sounded like my dad," Robert said. "I had pocket-dialed him."

When Robert's father, Philip Bradford, who is a Covington police officer, answered the accidental call, he heard the commotion and a lot of yelling.

"I heard ‘Put him on the ground!' I heard ‘Stop! Stop!," Philip said. "So, I started calling his name. I thought someone was hurting Robert at first. I had this fear just run through me so I responded to the scene. Once I got there and found out what happened, then of course, my fear turned to pride."

Robert is a member of the Covington Police Explorers program which is open to youth who are interested in a future career in law enforcement. Participants learn how to conduct vehicle pullovers, search buildings and conflict resolution methods. However, participants are not taught defense techniques.

"He didn't get that from the Explorers," Philip said. "He got it from home I guess."

As for standing in the gap, Philip said Robert "did that, that day."

After Pace was arrested for shoplifting, battery and public drunkenness, Robert wiped the sweat off his forehead, tucked in his shirt and went back to bagging groceries.

Kroger store manager Jamie Keith had only praises for Bradford.

"He is a really good kid, an associate and a valuable part of our store," Keith said.

While he said employees "don't normally tackle" shoplifters, he was doing a service coming to the aid of the female associate.

Robert, a junior at Eastside High School, says that his friends have heard about what he did.

"They thought I did a good job," Robert said. "They've been high-fiving me and stuff."

While Robert says everyone has been admiring his actions, he does not think it was anything heroic.

"I think that I did what anybody else would do."