Whether they have to sort out the messy details of a domestic issue or confront a lunatic in an effort to keep the peace, police officers are thrust into difficult situations daily. But sometimes, even with all their training, they can find themselves outmatched—and in need of a helping hand.

A San Francisco police officer learned this firsthand as she was struggling for air in a fight against an agitated, unruly suspect. The officer desperately needed help, but dozens of bystanders only idly watched the altercation… until a passerby with a surprising history stepped in.

Around 7 p.m. one evening, an unnamed female police officer was patrolling near the south side of San Francisco near the 4700 block of the city’s famed Mission Street when she received a call from dispatch.

Mike Koozmin / San Francisco Examiner

“One of our officers responded to the report of a woman jumping up and down on cars, denting them, vandalizing them,” Police Sergeant Eli Turner later told ABC-7 News. The officer headed toward the disturbance by herself.

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When she arrived at the scene, the officer confronted the agitated woman. Using her deescalation training, she tried to diffuse the tense situation. She had to calm down a much larger, much stronger woman. And it worked. For a minute, at least…

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With the disturbed woman seemingly under control, the police officer placed her under arrest. Calm as she may have been in the moment, she’d still done some serious damage and she’d broken the law—she had to face the consequences. The suspect wasn’t happy.

Before the officer could place her in handcuffs, the suspect grew unruly and agitated. She shouted, but the officer persisted in her arrest efforts. That was when the situation became dangerously violent…

Without warning, the woman lunged at the officer. At one point, she pinned the officer against a wall and slammed her head into it. The officer was no match for the woman; it appeared her fight training was failing her…

Meanwhile, bystanders had gathered at the scene to watch. No one lifted a finger to help the officer who, according to reports, started screaming, “Help me! Help me!” Clearly, she was outmatched—and in serious trouble.

John Green / San Mateo County Times

As the officer struggled to break free from the woman who was clearly overpowering her, a man was crossing the street nearby. He saw the fight and the crowd surrounding it, and he wandered closer to take a look.

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“The person had the officer kind of in a chokehold,” the man, Ryan Raso, told ABC-7. He saw the suspect was slamming the officer’s head into the wall. But then the assailant did something truly terrifying—and enough was enough.

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While the officer cried out for help and bystanders did nothing, the suspect suddenly reached for the officer’s gun. Was she really so crazed that she would attempt to shoot the officer to escape? Ryan didn’t want to find out.

Before the assailant could grab the gun, Ryan intervened, wrestling her to the ground and breaking the headphones he was wearing in the process. He held the woman down until other officers arrived. He’d saved the day! But he didn’t swell with pride…

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He was baffled as to why he was the only one to step in and save the officer. “A law enforcement officer is saying, ‘Help me, help me,'” he said later in disbelief. Why did no one else intervene? Thankfully, this was not lost on the officer’s colleagues…

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The officer’s fellow cops wanted to show their appreciation for what he’d done. But after Ryan saved the officer, he disappeared. Authorities couldn’t find the 35-year-old hero, so they embarked on a rather friendly manhunt, combing the city to find the man—not so they could arrest him, but to thank him.

Four days later, authorities at Ingleside Station finally located Ryan (though where they found him was unclear). The more they spoke with him, the more they understood how amazing his intervention was…

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Until recently, Ryan had been living in Florida, where he’d accumulated a substantial criminal history that included over a dozen arrests—including charges of resisting an officer! Once he arrived in San Francisco, he’d fallen on hard times.

“He has been homeless,” Sergeant Eli Turner told ABC-7. “He’s had a rough time in recent months. We wanted to reach out to him and let him know he has friends.” So, despite his run-ins with the law, the officers gave him something nice…

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So, what did they do to show their appreciation? They chipped in to buy him new headphones! They also offered to set him up in a shelter if he wanted to. It was clear the officers wanted to help. That was when they learned something else about Ryan…

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Ryan’s father had actually been a New York City police officer. The hero of the day admitted that his old man would’ve likely been very proud of his intervention. Still, Ryan didn’t do it for the glory…

“An officer was being beaten up, a human,” Ryan said. “So I just did what’s right, you know.” And it was a good thing he did. The bystander effect is a powerful force of persuasion; who knows how long it would’ve taken for someone else to intervene?

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When you watch the video below, you’ll learn more about Ryan Raso’s act of spontaneous heroism. It was a good thing he jumped in the middle of an uncomfortable and dangerous situation; otherwise, it might’ve been a very different story!

Ryan showed that people aren’t just a collection of their past misdeeds; with a little bit of kindness and respect for your fellow human, anyone can be a hero!

Share this homeless man’s incredible deed with your friends below!