IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Restaurant owner hailed as a hero after tackling man who sucker-punched customer

After one of his customers suffered an unprovoked attack, restaurant owner Timothy Ratcliff tackled the assailant — and it was all caught on camera.

Sometimes all that separates someone from their hero moment is a split-second decision. For one restaurant owner, that time came right after the lunch rush had died down.

On Aug. 1, Timothy Ratcliff, owner of a Japanese restaurant called Shin in Hollywood, California, tackled an attacker who robbed an elderly man in Hollywood, California. The victim, who is 64 years old, was seated on the eatery's patio and had just finished paying his bill when the incident occurred.

“It was after 3:30 in the afternoon and I actually just sat down to have lunch with my girlfriend,” said Timothy Ratcliff to TODAY Food, adding that the assailant, a person he believed to be homeless, had been hanging around the restaurant for a couple of months. Ratcliff, who has owned the shop for eight years, said before the attack, the assailant said something “incoherent” to the victim, so Ratcliff approached to ask if the man needed anything.

“We and the pizza place (next door) will give out water and sometimes we’ll give them food if they ask for it, just to make sure they’re OK,” he said. Ratcliff often offers help to the unhoused population around his shop, saying he sometimes offers food and aid to those who ask.

Image: Timothy Ratcliff, owner Shin Hollywood, a sushi restaurant on La Brea Avenue in Hollywood, Calif.
Timothy Ratcliff, owner of Shin, a sushi restaurant on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles, California.Courtesy Tim Ratcliff / @themagiciantim on Instagram

“If they want to get something taken care of, I do have resources for them,” he said. Ratcliff said that there have been incidents involving other people around his shopping center in the past, like dine-and-dashes and other petty crime, but that the assailant hadn’t done anything concerning before. “For two months, this guy has not really been a problem. He would just come up and ask for water, being totally chill until that day.”

Security cameras around the building captured the ordeal as it unfolded. The first security camera is trained on the patio, where the unnamed victim is sitting with his dog when the assailant walks up to him.

“I looked over and I literally watched the (man) come up and sucker-punch the guy right in the face and it knocked him right over,” Ratcliff said, adding that the man then took the victim’s phone and wallet.

The exterior of Shin, a sushi restaurant owned by Timothy Ratcliff on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles, Calif.
The exterior of Shin, a sushi restaurant owned by Timothy Ratcliff on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles, California.Google Maps

According to Ratcliff, the victim sustained injuries from the blow, fracturing two of his ribs on the way down to the ground. “He was in some pain, I can only imagine," he recounted. "Right then, I didn’t even think about it. It was just like an instinct. I got up and I just started going after this guy ‘cause I just couldn’t believe what I saw."

Ratcliff said as he was running around the corner, he didn’t even see the man’s fists as they made contact with his face. “My glasses flew off and I tackled him. He dropped the phone and the wallet and as I’m tackling him, he’s trying to bite me,” he said.

At that point, Ratcliff’s girlfriend Olga stepped in; she can be seen in the video running into the frame from the direction of the shop, kicking the assailant a couple of times, then gathering items strewn about as a result of the struggle.

“I had just come back from the bank, so I had $1,000 spill out of my pocket in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard, which was fun,” Ratcliff said. “But I know she was able to grab it all.”

There, on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and North La Brea Avenue, Ratcliff said he held the suspect down for about 10 minutes before the firefighters and police arrived and relieved Ratcliff.

“I did not realize as I was getting off of him and I was getting up that I was blacking out with all the adrenaline and so I was really wobbly,” Ratcliff said. 

After the incident, Ratcliff decided to take some time off and took a cruise with his family to heal from the bruises (and the stress) he sustained from the incident. While he relaxed away from his shop, video of this incident spread around social media, finding itself posted and reposted on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube.

Even the video security company that caught the footage, Amcrest Technologies, posted it on YouTube. That video, posted on Aug. 12 (complete with some off-color narration from an unknown party) garnered over 990,000 views.

As for how the elderly victim is doing, Radcliffe said he’s been in contact with him this week and that he’s OK, still in pain with rib fractures but is recovering. “He said it hurts to get in and out of bed when I spoke to him about two days ago. For the first week and a half or so he said couldn’t cough, sneeze or laugh because it hurt so bad.”

Radcliffe said now he’s just waiting to testify in the case against the man who was arrested at the scene. Aside from that, he is tending to family, friends, the shop and his other career as a magician, which is how he came to know of the restaurant he now owns.

“I’ve owned this now for eight years, it’s been there for 12 years,” Ratcliff said. “I’ve been a magician right up the street for the Magic Castle. That’s actually how I got to own it.”

And while his headline-making act might not have been magical, many are calling it heroic.