A Berks County man wanted in connection with a string of violent robberies met his match this weekend.
A hotel clerk at the Candlewood Suites in West Reading is credited with thwarting an attempted robbery, and he has been hailed a hero.
"I felt like I was going to be hurt, so I had to do whatever I had to do to protect myself," said Ivan Perez, who was working Saturday evening when he got the surprise of a lifetime.
Perez was in the middle of his shift when he was confronted and attacked on the job. John Gentry came in and asked about prices, but seconds later Gentry was over the counter armed with a knife, said police.
Instead of getting his hands on cash, Gentry, 48, of Shillington, got a battle.
"He had weight on me. He had maybe a little bit of height on me, and he's trying to push me down and the whole time I'm just trying to keep him off me," said Perez, who has worked at the hotel for about a year-and-a-half. "Any shot that I could get in to try and hurt him and cause him to stop I just got in."
Perez spent two-and-a-half-years in the Army and learned how to defend himself growing up in New York City. He landed about 20 punches, but it was a shot to the ribs that helped him gain the upper hand on a man police tried to track down for over a week.
"He starts asking me, 'Please just let me go. I'll leave. I don't even want the money anymore,' but at that point, I was infuriated and I wasn't going to let him go," said Perez.
Gentry had hit two other businesses, and officials were concerned he was growing more violent with each attack.
He held a razor blade to a cashier's throat last Wednesday at the Lukoil on Penn Avenue in West Reading. Before that, he robbed the Reading Adult Outlet on Penn Street on July 1, said police.
Now, balloons and a sign hang in the hotel lobby, thanking Perez for his bravery.
"He's amazing. In our eyes, he's a hero. I know he doesn't think he's a hero, but we all think he is," said Jill Dyer, general manager of Candlewood Suites.
According to police, Gentry admitted to the other robberies. He was taken to Reading Hospital, but he is now being held at the Berks County Prison in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Perez suffered a few bumps and bruises, but he was back on the job to finish his shift Saturday night and back in on Sunday.