A blind veteran took down an attacker who punched him after demanding he remove his dark glasses so he could “see God.”
Gordan Allen Besaw, 51, of Bethany, was walking to the bus stop Tuesday morning in Oklahoma City with his guide dog, Derby, for an appointment at the VA Medical Center. That's when he was attacked.
Besaw, an Army veteran who is blind due to glaucoma, said he grabbed his attacker by the collar before throwing him to the ground and putting him in a headlock. The confrontation occurred about 8:15 a.m. in the 5900 block of NW 23, according to a police incident report.
“I was walking to the bus stop. I never made it,” Besaw said Wednesday. “The guy approached me and said, ‘Are you blind? Take your glasses off. I can make you see God before I see God.'”
Besaw prefers avoiding violence. He gave the man multiple chances to leave him alone. He told police it wasn't clear if his attacker wanted to try to cure his blindness or kill him.
“The next thing I know, he hit me in the forehead,” Besaw said. “He hit me two more times.”
Besaw said he fell back on Army training to take down his attacker.
He dropped his dog's leash and told Derby to stay put.
“When he hit me the last time, I just kind of snapped,” he said. “I just went into reflex. I just reached out. Once I knew I had him I just pulled him towards me. It just happened so fast after that.”
‘I'm strong, too'
Even though he was being attacked, Besaw said he did not want the German shepherd to bite the man. A witness picked up Derby's leash as Besaw, who is 5-foot-4 and 170 pounds, took down the attacker, who was 5-foot-6, 155 pounds and 24 years Besaw's junior.
Using his hip, Besaw tossed the man to the ground and put him in a choke hold, telling Derby, again, to stay, Besaw said.
“He kept saying how strong he was, that he was ready to see God and take me with him,” Besaw said.
“I said, ‘I'm strong, too.'”
Besaw said he works out every day, but his strength during the attack surprised him.
“I'm not in as good of shape as I want to be, but I'm in better shape than what I thought I was,” he said.
Witnesses called 911, but no one volunteered to help Besaw hold his attacker on the ground. He thinks Derby intimidated the crowd.
When police arrived, they arrested Christopher James Andrew, 27, of Moore, on a complaint of aggravated assault and battery. Andrew remained in the Oklahoma County jail Wednesday, a jail official said.
“I just hope the guy gets help,” Besaw said. “I didn't want to hurt anybody; I didn't want my dog to hurt him. The guy was persistent. I didn't have a choice.”
The experience was harrowing, but Besaw has had more terrifying experiences as he walked to the bus stop, he said.
Three years ago, he and Derby were hit by a car on the same path, on the way back from the VA.
Besaw's last guide dog, a black lab named Gracie, hurt her knee when she stepped into a hole as they walked through grass. She required surgeries and had to be retired after that.
The lack of sidewalks in Bethany and Oklahoma City make getting around difficult for him.
“Not having sidewalks is a major concern because I have to go over several different kinds of terrain,” he said. “And I can figure out most of the terrain just by the tactile information, or, you know, the way it feels on my feet, on my shoes, the sound as I'm walking over it. I'll go from grass to concrete to asphalt, then to some gravel and some dirt, just to get to the bus stop.”
He pushes forward, he said, because he wants to be independent.
“I do have people that give me rides and stuff like that, but I try to be as independent as I possibly can, because I don't want to be a burden on other people. So I work very hard, every day, going over everything that I learned.”
Besaw said he has made it his life's mission to spread awareness about the blind, guide dogs and the organizations that support people like him. He speaks at churches and schools to spread his message.
“It's just to educate them so they're not afraid of the dog, on how to approach me, that I'm no different than any body else,” he said. “The majority of the places that raise these dogs and train us are nonprofit, so everything they get to do this stuff, it's all donated money from people and companies. We don't have to pay a dime for them.”
Derby, he said, came from Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester, Mich.
I try to be as independent as I possibly can, because I don't want to be a burden on other people. So I work very hard, every day, going over everything that I learned.”
Gordan Allen Besaw,
Besaw, a blind veteran, fought off an attacker on his way to a bus stop.