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Hero in Paramus mall mugging says he did ‘the moral thing’

Photo Credit: Pedro “Pete” Solla
Photo Credit: Pedro “Pete” Solla

A HERO’S TALE: A single father of two who punctured the tire of a mugger who fled the Garden State Plaza last night, leading to a police capture and arrest, told CLIFFVIEW PILOT today that he was simply doing the right thing.

“You just can’t let things go by and not get involved,” said Pete Solla, a New York City sanitation worker who once rescued several people from a burning building.

“I was shopping at the mall for my son’s 7th birthday today. I was getting him a Legos motorcycle,” Solla told CLIFFVIEW PILOT early this afternoon. “As I was pulling out of the mall, I noticed something strange going on behind this car. Then I heard the lady scream.”

Solla said he tailed the mugger in his car as he ran up a parking deck ramp.

“You’re crazy!” a friend who was with him said.

“The mall was crowded and another car came the other way and blocked me,” the 48-year-old hero told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “So I got out and started chasing him,” leaving his friend in the car.

The mugger quickly got into an SUV and started backing towards him, Solla said. He said he memorized the plate number, then pulled a pocket knife from his pocket and punctured the tire as he jumped out of the way.

The SUV sped off, hitting three vehicles, Paramus Police Chief Christopher Brock said ( SEE: Good Samaritan helps police chase down mugger ).

“It was like in slow motion,” Solla said. “But in real time it was seconds.”

He rushed back to the 56-year-old victim from Englewood and stayed with her until Paramus police arrived.

“I gave them as much information as I could on the description of the vehicle and what to look for,” Solla said.

Based on that information, Paramus police immediately issued an alert. A short time later, Rochelle Park police found the man trying to change the tire.

He was with a Clifton woman who was later charged as an accomplice, Brock said.

The Indian immigrant from the United Kingdom complained of chest pains, so officers took him to the secure unit of Bergen Regional Medical Center, the chief said. He has since been transferred to the Bergen County Jail.Pedro “Pete” Solla, who has been with the NYC Department of Sanitation eight years, works out regularly, does rock climbing, and is a certified scuba diver.

He used to be a fire safety officer at Chase Manhattan Bank and the Millennium Hilton, which came in handy one day in 2004 while he was on a break from mobile litter patrol in Harlem.

Spotting flames shooting out the windows of a second-floor apartment at 115th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, Solla ran inside and got a family out. Then he ran back in to help others evacuate.

Mayor Bloomberg recognized his heroism with a medal.

He said he didn’t really think about what he was doing. He just reacted, same as last night.

“It’s the moral thing to do. That could have been someone’s mom, someone’s sister who was attacked,” Solla told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

“I think a lot of people have forgotten those values. But it’s the moral thing to do. If we’re going to make this world a better place, it has to start with each of us.

“I’m just happy that she wasn’t harmed.”

Solla’s other boy is 8. Their mom has them this weekend, but that doesn’t mean he won’t see them.

“I think after this she might want to hang out with me,” Solla said, jokingly.

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