Staff Sgt. Josue Fragoso, in charge of Marine Corps Recruiting South Bay, displays a Certificate of Recognition from Torrance City Mayor George K. Chen, which he received for helping to foil a robbery in California’s Del Amo Fashion Center on Dec. 20, 2022. US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Immanuel Johnson.
It was five days before Christmas and all through the Marine Corps Recruiting South Bay office, not a creature was stirring — except for a California staff sergeant administering the pre-screening, internet-delivered computer adaptive test, PiCAT.
Then a crash echoed across the Del Amo Fashion Center, a sprawling Orange County mall. It was 7:30 p.m., and recruiters Staff Sgt. Josue Fragoso and Sgt. Andre Henry rushed past Pure Foot Spa and Massage and the Air Force and Army offices, toward the commotion.
“I came outside and I started running towards Daniel’s Jewelers, and that’s when I saw four suspects,” Fragoso, 26, told Coffee or Die Magazine. “One of the individuals actually had this little sledgehammer.”
It looked like a smash-and-grab gem heist, with glass fragments spilling into the corridor and a pair of possible perps bolting past the Marines.
Pfc. Tyler Washingon, Staff Sgt. Josue Fragoso, Torrance City Mayor George K. Chen, Sgt. Andre Henry, Sgt. Sanjay Noronha, and Pvt. Dante Cortez gathered at the US Marine Corps Recruiting South Bay Center in the Del Amo Fashion Center on Dec. 22, 2022. Photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Josue Fragoso.
But Fragoso, Henry, and Scott Elliott, the 33-year-old applicant who was taking the PiCAT, cornered two other suspects in front of the jewelry store.
Fragoso recalled pinning one kid to the ground, but the guy Henry grabbed wiggled out of his grasp. So Elliott bounded after him, running him down on a bridge connecting the mall to a parking garage.
After a brief struggle, Elliott detained him, too. He later credited the take-down to his jiu jitsu training.
“Two detained juvenile petitions were filed with Long Beach District Attorney’s office on Dec. 22, 2022, for robbery,” Sgt. Ron Salary, a spokesperson for the Torrance Police Department, told Coffee or Die. “There are still two outstanding suspects and the investigation is ongoing.”
US Marine Corps Sgt. Josue Fragoso, a recruiter in Torrance, California, poses for a photograph on Jan. 27, 2022. US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Ralph.
Two days after the alleged robbery, Torrance City Mayor George K. Chen joined Daniel’s Jewelers CEO David Sherwood in lauding the recruiters for stepping up when others stood around.
“They served our community as they would our country, with courage and unwavering sacrifice,” said Chen in a prepared statement emailed to Coffee or Die.
But Fragoso shrugs off the hype. He participated in the Los Angeles Police Department Cadet Program as a kid, but said it was his Marine Corps training that kicked in when the moment came to act.
“I had to maintain my calm and my composure to find the best course of action and do some quick analysis, quick decision thinking, making sure that I make the right call,” Fragoso said.
US Marine Staff Sgt. Josue Fragoso deployed with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in 2018 to Laos. He was tasked with locating the remains of American service members who died in the Asian country decades ago. Photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Josue Fragoso.
It’s been an interesting career in the Corps for Fragoso, who enlisted in 2015 for a supply gig after being recruited in Culver City, a 20-minute drive from his office today.
In 2018, he deployed with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency to Laos, where they looked for the remains of American service members killed decades ago, “to bring back, basically, peace to the family,” Fragoso said.
He’s been meritoriously promoted several times for what he said is “doing what I’m supposed to be doing as a Marine.”
Two years ago, Fragoso decided to follow in the steps of the Marine who recruited him, Gunnery Sgt. Vince Webb. He returned to Southern California to woo the next generation of volunteers.
“I felt like my recruiter shaped my life very heavily and for the better, and I just wanted to do the same for others,” Fragoso said.
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Noelle is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die through a fellowship from Military Veterans in Journalism. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and interned with the US Army Cadet Command. Noelle also worked as a civilian journalist covering several units, including the 75th Ranger Regiment on Fort Benning, before she joined the military as a public affairs specialist.
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