TUSCOLA TWP. – As a former defensive end for the Frankenmuth High School football team, Brian Bekemeier is no stranger to a skirmish.
But when the 6-foot-2, 200-pound FedEx driver stopped his delivery truck Jan. 8 to defend a teenager being beaten by four thugs in Genesee County, the team of troublemakers cut their losses and drove away.
Bekemeier, however, rendered aid to the victim and provided statements to Genesee County Parks rangers arriving on scene – information leading to the arrest and conviction of all four attackers, on felony charges.
“They were all charged with unarmed robbery, and all suspects have since pleaded guilty,” wrote Kevin Shanlian, Genesee County Parks chief ranger, in a “letter of merit” given to Bekemeier, 29, of Tuscola County’s Tuscola Township, in the spring.
Shanlian said Tuesday that the four assailants — two 18-year-old men from Burton, an 18-year-old man from Davison and a juvenile male from Burton, along with a juvenile from Burton — have been convicted of felonies.
The ranger and Genesee County Parks Director Amy McMillan commended Bekemeier, a 2005 Frankenmuth High School graduate, “for your unselfish act by helping a stranger in need with no regards to your personal safety.”
Bekemeier, they wrote, “showed true compassion, exhibiting heroic acts when most citizens would have avoided this conflict.”
The robbery took place near the corner of Belsay and Stanley roads in Genesee County’s Genesee Township, near the public Mott Lake Fishing Site, Shanlian said. Bekemeier said he was delivering packages on his route when he saw the beating taking place.
“It was just instinct,” Bekemeier said. “I just got out of the truck and got involved. … They were assaulting the guy and I got out and they took off.”
Bekemeier figures he prevented further physical injuries — or worse — to the victim, whom Bekemeier said was smaller than the assailants.
“He was in a world of hurt there, it looked like,” Bekemeier said. “He was just covering himself (against the blows), pretty much.”
Though Bekemeier drives delivery trucks for FedEx, he is employed by Air Dale Express Inc. of Vassar, owned by Dale and Vicki Heinlein.
The Heinleins issued a written statement noting they “are extremely proud of Brian, and are very honored to have such a dedicated employee.” The Heinleins employ 27 workers at the FedEx Ground Station near Saginaw.
Bekemeier is the husband of Heather Bekemeier, and they have two children: Cole Swaffer, 4, and Callie Bekemeier, 5 months.
Brian and Heather Bekemeier were honored by FedEx when they were guests at the JW Marriott Hotel in Indianapolis from Aug. 10-12, when Brian Bekemeier was lauded with a Humanitarian Award by FedEx Ground Shipping Services for his good deed in Genesee County.
The Bekemeiers had all expenses paid during their trip, which provided admission to the National Truck & Step Van Driving Championships and a tour of the Dallara IndyCar Factory.
Brian Bekemeier laughed when asked if he told his wife what happened when he arrived home from work the day he failed after foiling the unarmed robbery.
“I told her what happened and she was proud of me,” he said. “She did say I could have been hurt, but that’s about it.”
Shanlian noted that Bekemeier comforted the robbery victim “all the while putting (Bekemeier) behind in (his) scheduled job responsibilities.”
The victim managed to keep his cellphone, Bekemeier said. “He was just bruised and his clothes were all ripped,” Bekemeier said.
“They were punching and kicking him,” he added. “I just said ‘What are you guys doing?’ and then they took off, and then I called 911 and got the license-plate number.”
Bekemeier, who also played basketball and baseball at Frankenmuth High, said he didn’t think about the possibility of being injured — or about what could have occurred had the attackers stood their ground.
“That would have been interesting,” Bekemeier said. “I don’t know what would have happened if they didn’t take right off.”
Tom Gilchrist is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org