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Largo trash collectors subdue burglary suspect | News

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Largo trash collectors subdue burglary suspect

LARGO, Florida - "I grabbed the nose like that and twisted..."

Mike Kowalke goes with his instincts. "I did this [headlock] loose enough so he could breath. He bit my arm, that's when I said, 'Don't bite me, don't bite me."

Mike was showing me how he took an alleged bad guy down. 20-year-old Matthew Olver is accused of trying to break into a home on a quiet residential street in Largo.

Olver reportedly knocked on the door of a house on Thursday afternoon, whose only occupant was a 14-year-old girl. The teenager didn't recognize Olver, so she didn't answer... but then noticed that he was trying to to break in through the rear door.

Police say the teen called her mother after seeing Olver remove a window screen.


"I am very proud of my daughter," the teen's mom says. "She did exactly what she was supposed to do - didn't answer the door, called 911, called her mother."

The mother, who doesn't want her family identified, told her daughter to get out of the house. Police say she ran out of the garage and spotted a Largo Solid Waste truck nearby.

Mike Kowalke was on his usual truck route picking up garbage, when he was called to the rescue. His supervisor Michael Gordon was also coincidentally driving by the neighborhood.

Gordon says, "This girl came out screaming, frantic; she says 'Help me! Help me!' Mike [comes] out of nowhere and tackles the suspect. It was a split-second, it happened so fast!"


"I wrapped him up and tackled him," Kowalke says.

Then his supervisor jumped in to help hold Olver down. "I noticed he had a knife."

Fortunately Olver lost control of the knife, and it was taken away by Michael Fitzgerald, another man who was working nearby. Kowalke and Gordon held Olver until police arrived.

"Those heroes came and probably saved her life," the teen's mom says. "They are guardian angels, sent at the right time. All three are [named] Michael... Michael from the Bible, the angel."

The men are humble about being called heroes.


"I just did the right thing, don't consider myself a hero," Kowalke says. "[The Police department] are our true heroes. I am a solid waste worker, I just want to help people."

Olver is currently being held on $170,000 bail in the Pinellas County Jail on charges of armed burglary and two counts of aggravated assault.

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