Vancouver Mall store employee who helped detain kidnapping suspect shares his story

Ethan McClintock: ‘I don’t feel like a hero. I just feel like I did the right thing’

VANCOUVER — Ethan McClintock had thought about what it would be like to be put in a situation where he had to make a split decision in a critical situation. But, he never imagined the scenario he would find himself in Saturday.

Ethan McClintock Photo courtesy of Stephanie McClintock
Ethan McClintock Photo courtesy of Stephanie McClintock

The 19-year-old McClintock was working his shift at a store in Vancouver Mall Saturday. In fact, he was serving a customer at the cash register of the store, which he asked not be identified as a courtesy to his employer.

“I heard a girl scream and that’s what caused me to look up,’’ McClintock said. “She kind of made a screeching sound and after that she screamed ‘fire!’ Kids are taught to scream ‘fire’ because nobody responds to ‘help’ but everyone responds to fire.’’’

That’s exactly what McClintock did. He responded and he responded quickly, without hesitation.

“I’m glad I didn’t freeze,’’ he said.

The Vancouver Police Department released information about the incident McClintock was involved in Saturday. A 49-year-old man, Steven Hayes, with a prior conviction for kidnapping, had allegedly attempted to kidnap a 14-year-old girl who was shopping in the store where McClintock worked.

“I looked at her and I saw the girl,’’ McClintock said. “She had this terrified look on her face. I saw the man. I couldn’t tell if he was grabbing her, but he definitely has his hands right up in her personal space. He started running away.

“I immediately took off after him,’’ McClintock said. “I chased him out of the store. He started running to the exit. I followed him out of the store. I was yelling at other people to stop him, but something like that, people can’t process that quick enough to react. Luckily, my manager, who had just clocked off 15 minutes before, he was heading to that exit. When he recognized me, he also took off after the suspect.’’

Even with their brave efforts, McClintock and his manager had a little good fortune in catching up with the suspect.

“He tripped,’’ McClintock said. “It was like a cheesy horror movie where the person trips over nothing. He just tripped. Thankfully he did. If he would have got out to the parking lot, it would have been so much harder to track him down. Once he tripped, me and my manager got on top of him.’’

McClintock and his manager, who did not want to be identified in this story, detained Hayes until mall security arrived to take the suspect into custody.

“We just held him,’’ said McClintock, who carries just 140-145 pounds on his 5-foot-11 frame. “He was resisting quite a bit. He complained that he couldn’t breathe on his back so we moved him to a bench. A third person who was a lot bigger than me and my manager helped us restrain him until mall security came. It felt like a really long time, but it was really only like five minutes from the time we got on top of him until they came.’’

Hayes was then passed over to the Vancouver Police Department. He was later booked into the Clark County Jail on charges of Kidnapping I, Assault II and Felony Harassment. He appeared in court on Monday and a judge set his bail at $500,000.

When interviewed by, McClintock was humble and appeared unfazed by Saturday’s experience.

“Some of my co-workers are like, ‘you’re a hero,’’’ McClintock said. “I don’t feel like a hero. I just feel I did the right thing, especially with the (suspect’s) prior conviction. Hopefully, he won’t be able to do that to anyone else for quite a while. Hopefully, that girl can feel better knowing the guy is behind bars right now.’’

After giving his report, both verbally and in writing to Vancouver Police, McClintock returned to a chaotic scene in the story in which he works. The victim was still there waiting for her father to arrive to take her home. McClintock didn’t have the opportunity to speak with the victim, whose father spoke to KPTV Fox 12 Oregon at Hayes’ Monday court appearance.

McClintock is a 2019 graduate of Prairie High School. He is currently a student at Washington State University Vancouver, where he plans to study Business.

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About The Author

Ken Vance got his start in the newspaper industry in 1987 as a reporter at The Columbian Newspaper in Vancouver. Vance graduated from Stevenson High School in Stevenson, WA, and attended Clark College in Vancouver. He worked for The Columbian from 1987-2001. He was most recently a staff member of The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground, where he served as editor since 2010 and reporter since 2007. Vance’s work in the newspaper industry has won him multiple awards, including a first place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for in-depth reporting.

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