By Juli McDonald

NEWTON (CBS) – An off-duty Newton police officer suddenly found himself on the job after all, putting an end to an armed robbery in town. With the police department right around the corner, Lt. Dave Tempesta is a regular at the Corner Mini Mart on Border Street.

“He’s my friend. If he doesn’t come, I call him. What happened to coffee?” clerk Charlie Patel joked.

Patel is always looking for his favorite customer, but he’s never been more thankful for a visit from Lt. Tempesta than last week.

Newton Police Lt. Dave Tempesta stops armed robbery attempt (WBZ-TV)

“Two minutes before! The cop (got) here! Two minutes!” Patel said.

Just after the lieutenant arrived and stepped toward the back of the store on the afternoon of Tuesday December 3rd, an armed man covering his face stepped behind the counter.

“After (showing) the knife, oh my God. Something’s wrong! He said ‘Open the register!’ (It was a) big knife,” Patel said.

Clerk Charlie Patel (WBZ-TV)

Not noticing the uniformed officer, that suspect began emptying the register. That’s when Lt. Tempesta pulled out his gun and interrupted. There was a violent struggle. The cop and clerk wrestled the man to the ground, clearing the counter and knocking shelves. Even other customers came in the store to help. Moments later, other officers arrived and Thomas Zekos of Shrewsbury was arrested.

Aside from some scratches Patel is just fine – still singing the praises of his hero. “Thanks to my God. I love my cop. He’s my heart. The cop is my heart,” Patel said.

Investigators say Zekos told them he’s struggling with addiction. He pleaded not guilty to charges including armed robbery, assault and battery on a police officer and resisting arrest.

Juli McDonald

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