LDS missionary fights off armed attacker in Brazil

Posted at 9:29 PM, Mar 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-15 17:34:43-04

MANAUS, Brazil - A terrifying encounter between two LDS missionaries and an armed robber was caught on a surveillance camera. The LDS church has confirmed the missionaries were working out of the Manaus, Brazil mission.

The video appears to show two men ride up on a motorcycle. One man gets off the motorcycle and approaches the two missionaries. He reaches into his belt and appears to have a gun. After a few seconds, one of the missionaries decides to fight back, wrestling the gun away.

The missionary points the gun at his attacker. The other man gets off the motorcycle and joins the fight. The missionary throws the gun over a nearby fence. His original attacker takes off running, the other missionary stands off to the side and the one who wrestled the gun away ends up in a fistfight with the man who had been on the motorcycle.

The fight lasts nearly a minute, going up the sidewalk and into the street. The missionary lands several punches, throwing his attacker to the ground. A bystander jumps in, eventually succeeding in pulling the two men apart. The attacker running off out of the range of the camera.

International security expert David Acosta says this is a typical street crime tactic in Brazil and it can become deadly.

“They come up on a motorcycle, they get off. The one guy is the getaway guy and the other guy is the armed robber and they will shoot you…they will shoot you,” said Acosta.

Acosta would not speculate on if the missionary made a good decision in grabbing the gun. He did say, in general, it’s better to hand over whatever the robbers want.

“If you don’t feel like your life is for sure in danger, like you’re going to be shot, then just hand over whatever it is you have. Don’t resist because it is so dangerous. So dangerous to resist,” said Acosta.

Acosta has some experience to speak from. He says he was robbed at gunpoint during his mission, but much like what is shown in the video, he fought back, grabbing the gun. Though his battle and the one captured on surveillance video were both won, he worries the larger battle could be lost.

“These robbers, that’s their turf…If those guys hold a grudge, it’s just that white shirt and plaque that become a target,” said Acosta.

The church has not identified the missionaries involved, but spokesman Eric Hawkins released the following statement:

“We are grateful that this incident did not end tragically, either for the missionaries or the other individuals involved. The guidance given to missionaries is to avoid conflict. Every situation is unique, and as adults, missionaries must make decisions about their safety. In this case, the assailant had a weapon and the missionary reacted in the moment to protect his life and that of his companion.”

Hawkins added that the missionaries involved have been temporarily removed from the area, and they are not "in trouble" in any way for their actions.