Subway employee in disbelief over suspension after disarming a would-be robber

Chris Green
Rockford Register Star
Subway employee Araceli Sotelo took a gun away from a would-be robber on Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021, inside the restaurant at 1120 E. State St. in Rockford.

ROCKFORD — Subway employee Araceli Sotelo has a lot to say about how she's being treated after she fought off an armed robber while on the job.

Mostly, the 20-year-old from Rockford can't believe it.

After managing to wrestle a handgun away from a man trying to rob the store and smacking the man on the head with the gun until he ran away, Sotelo said she's been suspended from her job.

Sotelo said she had only been working at the Subway at 1120 E. State St. for about a month before the attempted robbery took place shortly after 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 5.

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Sotelo said she was alone at the store and had never been trained on what to do in case of a robbery.

"I was kind of like, I felt like I had no other options, you know?" she said. "I was alone in there, and anything could have happened, you know? So, I did what I thought was right."

Sotelo said her suspension came after video of her struggle with the masked gunman surfaced on the internet.

The store owner declined to comment.

Sotelo said the gunman did not get any money from the store, but he did take her purse. 

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She said the man entered the business, showed his gun and demanded money. She said she repeatedly told the man she didn't have any money. That's when the gunman grabbed Sotelo's purse.

The video that's being circulated comes from the store's own security cameras, Sotelo said. The video shows her and the gunman scuffling with each other behind the sandwich counter and then in front of it. Sotelo's purse falls to the ground. Sotelo pulls the man's sweatshirt off and the man's gun falls to the ground.

Sotelo grabs the gun. The man grabs the purse.

Sotelo said the man asked for the gun and sweatshirt back in exchange for her purse, but she yelled at him and hit him on the head with the gun. The gunman ran, and Sotelo chased after him.

Sotelo said her purse contained her ID and a debit card.

"He tried to spend $8,000 at a jewelry store," she said.

The purchase was declined, and the card was cancelled.

Sotelo said she went to the hospital the next day to be checked out and returned to work. It wasn't until two days after the robbery attempt, Sotelo said, that she was told that she was suspended.

Video of Sotelo's altercation with the gunman appeared on social media. It was shown on TMZ, an online celebrity news and entertainment publication.

Sotelo said the owner suspended her because the video was made public.

"I was really mad because I didn't post it," she said. "I texted him and said, 'How long am I suspended for?' And he said, Until everything is removed offline.' I don't have capability of doing that."

Sotelo, who goes by the TikTok handle of "yadalove07," said she posted a video of the altercation after she was suspended.

Sotelo said her cell phone was damaged in the scuffle with the gunman, too, and the store owner has not offered to compensate her for her phone or medical bills.

The would-be robber remains at large.

Sotelo is considering suing her employer.

Subway's corporate office issued the following statement:

"We are deeply concerned about the recent incident at a franchised location in Rockford, Illinois. The restaurant owner and management are fully cooperating with the police investigation, and we request patience until that process is complete." 

Meanwhile, Sotelo's mother has set up a gofundme account to help with lost wages and legal fees. So far, more than $15,000 has been raised.

Anyone with information about the robbery is asked to contact Rockford police at 779-500-6555 or Crime Stoppers at 815-963-7867.

Chris Green: cgreen@rrstar.com; @chrisfgreen