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Teen powerlifter tackles man attacking her mom during New Orleans trip. ‘His mistake’

Screenshot of Masina Tupea’s public Facebook post

Masina Tupea said she has never sprinted so fast in her life.

“The guy took his chances with me cause he thought I would crumble again,” she wrote on Facebook. “He was wrong.”

Tupea, along with her parents, was walking down the Central Business District to grab dinner in New Orleans while on vacation Tuesday, Dec. 28, when she says a man accosted her family, HawaiiNewsNow reported. Tupea said the man punched her mother in the face, dislocating her jaw.

So Tupea sprung into action.

Little did their alleged attacker know, the 18-year-old Hawaii native is a national deadlifting champion, setting a nearly 320-pound record nationwide, according to HawaiiNewsNow.

“I needed to protect my family,” Tupea told NOLA. “That’s all I could think about.”

She ran after the accused attacker once he decided to flee, according to Tupea, and he then turned around and hit her, too. Tupea said she reeled from the punch, which left her with a black eye, NOLA reported, but still continued to pursue the man.

Once she caught up with him, she dodged his tackle and pinned him down under a car, trapping him, according to HawaiiNewsNow. The man pleaded with her to let him go, Tupea said, but she told him she wouldn’t.

“He asked me to let him go, but I kept telling him that he messed with the wrong family,” she told HawaiiNewsNow.

According to Tupea’s account of the incident, she didn’t release the man until she saw flashing police lights. Only then did she allow herself to return back to her parents, she said.

Tupea said that while many people are calling her a hero, the entire situation had also stirred an onslaught of emotions, including when she returned to her parents crying.

But overall, Tupea wrote, she was glad to discover what kind of person she became when her family was jeopardized — and that even if she gets hit, she can indeed stand back up.

Police told NOLA they arrested Augustus Taylor, 36, accusing him of purse snatching and two counts of simple battery. According to NOLA, his bond is set at $40,000, and court records show Taylor has had numerous battery counts against him dating back to 2010.

McClatchy News reached out to the New Orleans Police Department for comment.

Tupea wrote she was grateful her attacker didn’t have a weapon — and that her family is still together. According to NOLA, the Tupeas were able to enjoy the rest of their vacation after a trip to the hospital to pop her mother’s jaw back into place.

“Thank you for the outpouring of love and support that our family has received from across the country,” Tupea posted the week after the incident. “I love my family and I thank Heavenly Father that our family is recovering well (both physically and emotionally) and there weren’t any serious injuries.”

This story was originally published January 6, 2022 3:09 PM.

Alison Cutler is a National Real Time Reporter for the Southeast at McClatchy. She graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University and previously worked for The News Leader in Staunton, VA, a branch of USAToday.

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