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A June graduate, described by a friend as a "quiet, typical, nice kid," had anything but a quiet, typical day earlier this month.

In fact, within the span of a few minutes, Andrew H. Dickson became a hero when he put his life at risk to assist in the capture of a gunman who had killed a woman.

Mr. Dickson, who received the SB and SM in electrical engineering and computer science and is now working in Portland, OR, described the wild and frightening situation to his friend Roland M. Allen, associate director admissions, in an e-mail message.

In Mr. Dickson's own words, here's what happened:

"A man from Vancouver, WA, came down and robbed our neighborhood Safeway at 10:20pm. I drove into the parking lot and heard a gunshot or two right in front of my car, and I saw a lady fall down and a guy turn and run away to his car, which was also right in front of my car.

"He pulled away and I began to follow him out of the parking lot and onto a little side street, trying to memorize the plate number. About two blocks later he made another right turn onto another residential street. Halfway down that street, I saw his brake lights go on, and he got out of his car, and the next thing I know, a shot rips through my window and into the passenger seat next to me.

"I slammed on the brakes, ducked down, and put the car in reverse as fast as I could. Two more shots hit my car before he got into his car again and drove away. I got out of my car, ran to the nearest house with the lights on, and called 911. The police showed up really quick, and I gave them the license number and all the details. Later that morning, the SWAT team surrounded his house and he surrendered."

"I really was scared for my life," Mr. Dickson said. "The man was driving his own car and went back to his own house (no one ever said that criminals had to be smart!)."

The suspect turned out to be a man on probation for a bank robbery four years ago. The police said he had fired at Mr. Dickson with a high-powered rifle. One bullet hit his car's radiator, and two came in through the dashboard-one fragmenting inside the car and the other ripping through two seats and exiting out of the back of the car.

Mr. Dickson was hailed as a hero by Portland newspapers and television stations and was thanked personally by the daughter of the murder victim, a 55-year-old innocent bystander known for her charitable work with the homeless in the Portland area.

According to Mr. Allen, religion is an important part of Mr. Dickson's life.

"I thank God that I was there when it happened so that they could catch this guy, and I'm also thankful that I wasn't hurt or killed when he was shooting at me, " Mr. Dickson said. He added, "Please pray for the family of the woman."


"What we've discovered is that short-term programs don't pay off, and that well-designed long-term ones, lasting a good part of a year, are the way to go."-Paul Osterman, professor of management, commenting on government-funded job training programs in The Wall Street Journal.

A version of this article appeared in the August 31, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 39, Number 3).

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