If you see something, say something, the motto goes.
Sensing behavior that was not quite right at a local restaurant in late December, Cody Byrd took that familiar maxim a step further: He did something.
Quick, prudent thinking on Byrd’s part prevented the attempted abduction of an 8-year-old at the Biscuitville on West Market Street and ultimately resulted in a fast arrest by Greensboro police.
As the News & Record’s Kenwyn Caranna reported last week, Byrd, 24, a graduate student in software engineering at N.C. A&T, noticed that a man had been staring at the little girl from his table and appeared to follow her when she went to the restroom. The man then stood in a hallway near the restroom doors.
So, Byrd pretended to go to the men’s room. He asked the stranger if he was waiting to use the restroom.
“And when he said, ‘Oh, no. You go ahead.’ ” Byrd told the News & Record, “... that’s when it kind of rang that, OK, something’s not right.”
Then why was he there?
Byrd stepped into the men’s room, as if he was going to use it, still keeping an eye on the man, whom he could see in the mirror.
Suddenly, the women’s restroom door opened and the man attempted to grab the girl as she emerged. The startled child evaded his grip and ran away.
“That’s when I asked him: ‘So, do you know her? What are you doing?’ ” Byrd said.
The man said something that made little sense to Byrd — something about “sending a message.”
By then, the girl, sobbing and afraid, rejoined her mother at their table in the dining area.
As the man attempted to leave, Byrd considered his options.
If he overtly confronted him, the man could be armed.
Or onlookers might get the wrong impression — that a young black man was attacking a white man.
Instead of a physical encounter, Byrd decided to snap photos of the man and his car. Then he called police, who soon made an arrest.
The man, identified as Timothy Jon Fry, was charged with kidnapping and taking indecent liberties with a child. According to court documents, Fry has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, whose symptoms include hallucinations and delusion. Also, according to court documents, an officer said Fry admitted that he had indeed planned to kidnap the child.
The margin between a tragedy and a happy outcome was Byrd’s coolness under pressure and his logical solution to a difficult and potentially dangerous problem. Which, come to think of it, is what engineers do.
Byrd’s judgment, discipline, restraint, courage and logical approach, all squeezed into the space of a few tense minutes, are beyond impressive. So was the response of police, who arrived on the scene within five minutes.
In these columns we often scold our leaders — and others — for not doing the right thing. We’ve also written more than we’d like to about gun violence that all too frequently involves young black males as both the assailants and the victims.
We don’t say enough about people like Byrd, a young black man who intervened against one stranger to help another.
And who did it with his wits, not his fists.