When an off-duty police officer took his wife out to lunch, he had no idea the meal would end when an armed robber walked in and made a “deadly mistake.”
There are certain jobs where you never really have a day off, and being a police officer is one of them. Most off-duty cops carry a concealed weapon just in case the community is in need of their services. This is exactly what happened to Sgt. Brian Sato when he took his wife out to lunch at Nation’s Burgers.
When convicted bank robber Amanuel Moreno walked into Nation’s Burgers, he might have thought holding up a burger joint would be a piece of cake, compared to holding up banks. Moreno pulled out his gun and threatened employees to hand over the cash. UC Berkley police officer Brian Sato was watching his every move from a table in the back, and the off-duty cop sprung into action.
“He yelled at him to drop his weapon,” a Nation’s employee explained. “I ran, and all I heard was a gunshot. I don’t know how many were shot, I just heard one.”
Another terrified employee said that the gunman, who was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, headed over to the cashier and ordered her to open the register.
“[He] had a gun pointed at us,” the cashier said. “I was the one talking to him. He was talking to me. If anyone were to get shot, I would have been the first one.”
Police said the off-duty sergeant fired a single round, fatally wounding the armed suspect.
“Sheriff’s deputies provided first aid before paramedics and Contra Costa County Fire Protection District firefighters responded. Rescuers took the man to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead,” Mercury News reported.
The cashier who was staring down the barrel of Amanuel Moreno’s firearm said she is thankful that Sgt. Brian Sato was there and intervened.
“I’ll just say thank you because he was there,” the woman said. “He didn’t know if he was going to get shot. He didn’t know if he could have died at that moment. He just wanted to protect us.”
KTVU legal analyst Michael Cardoza noted that many police officers, while off-duty, carry their service weapon or an alternative weapon. According to Cardoza, cases like these should serve as a warning to would-be robbers.
“So when you walk in somewhere there just might be an off-duty police officer there armed and trained on how to use it,” Cardoza said.
Sgt. Brian Sato is the lead firearms instructor and range master — or shooting range supervisor — for the UC Berkeley Police Department and has served overseas as an Army reservist. Amanuel Moreno, who had been convicted of several armed bank robberies, had just been recently released from federal prison at the time of the Nation’s Burger hold-up.
In a sentencing memo from the bank robberies, federal prosecutors explained the growing danger of Amanuel Moreno.
“The defendant’s criminal conduct has demonstrated a concerning history of violence that appears to be escalating,” federal prosecutors wrote. “In the final bank robberies, the defendant moved from telling the victim tellers that he had a gun to outright threats to shoot them.”
Off-duty officers are often involved in stopping crimes without any consideration for their own life. It’s much more dangerous to attempt to stop a crime in progress when they are wearing plain clothes and have no backup. However, these off-duty officers have to make split-second decisions.
They have to take into consideration the environment and whether other citizens are in harm’s way as well as potential scenarios and outcomes. Then, in that split second, they act, hoping their experience and training guide them to make the right decision while praying it’s their lucky day.