|San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan introduced Citizen Hero Dylan Graham.|
“Courage is the most important of all virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”
Crime is often random and becoming a victim of crime can happen when you least expect it. A St. Augustine High School assistant baseball coach whose actions saved him and a student from a kidnapping attempt was honored by the San Diego’s District Attorney’s office at last month’s Citizens of Courage Awards Luncheon held at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel, downtown San Diego. Saluting six brave citizens, the 29th annual event drew 400 dignitaries, elected officials, community leaders, and guests.
Dylan Graham (2006-grad) was working at Saints in December 2015 when he and one of his students were wrapping up a practice session in the batting cages at Hickman Field. Hickman Field in Kearny Mesa is where the school’s baseball teams regularly practice and play year around.
On one late afternoon, a few days before Christmas, a stranger approached them asking for a light for a cigarette. When Dylan said they didn’t smoke, the man pointed his handgun at them and forced them into Dylan’s car. At that point, the incident became an armed kidnapping, one of the most serious crimes in the California legal system.
Dylan told authorities that he was ordered to drive while student Jack sat in the front passenger seat. The kidnapper sat behind Jack because Dylan had placed his golf clubs directly behind the driver's seat.
The kidnapper told Dylan he was taking them to East County where a group of people was waiting for the gunman.
As he drove toward Ramona as instructed, Dylan said "It was a long car ride so I had a while to think about my strategy for getting us out of there.”
Dylan was grateful he placed his golf clubs where he did because it kept the man from holding the gun on him from behind the seat. “Sitting behind Jack, I got to see him and the gun.
As they neared Ramona, Dylan had to slow down for road construction. He was going about 30 mph when he decided to act.
“When he wasn’t really paying attention I jumped from behind the steering wheel into the back seat and managed to get my hands around his wrists,” said Graham. “I started fighting for the gun and three shots went off.”
During the scuffle, Dylan’s student was able to jump out of the car. “It’s a good thing Jack got out of there because one of the shots went right through the seat, he was sitting in.”
Dylan ended up with the still loaded gun and was able to flag down a passing motorist to call 911. The kidnapper got away but both Dylan and Saintsman Jack made it safely out of the terrifying situation.
The kidnapper was eventually caught in Orange County. Months later, Dylan testified at the gunman’s trial. The attacker is serving a life sentence for kidnapping.
After the trial he responded to questions from a TV reporter by saying he didn’t feel like a hero, he was just trying to protect the student he was in charge of and get him back to his parents—safely. It was a bond that he experienced as a Saintsman. We’re all very close-knit,” he said.
The coach still keeps in touch with his former student.
Dylan is now married and owner of a new real estate firm.
Although you wouldn't necessarily be able to recognize the heroes from the others attending the luncheon, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan, pointed out Dylan Graham and several others acted with extreme valor during terrifying situations.
For that, they were honored as Citizens of Courage.
To see a District Attorney’s Office video re-enactment of the kidnapping: Click here.