When you hear the word “grandma,” what image comes to mind? Perhaps you envision a silver-haired woman with glasses adorned with pearls, a knit cardigan, and orthopedic shoes sitting in a rocking chair enjoying that day’s newspaper. As a society, we have been given the impression that elderly women (and men alike) are frail, fragile beings who can no longer complete basic everyday tasks or make sound judgments.
However, what we often fail to realize is that senior citizens have had a lifetime of experience and also lived through various historical periods of war and economic depression, making them far more resilient than we give them credit for.
In the midst of danger and face-to-face with criminals, these 10 incredible crime-fighting grandmas proved that regardless of their age, health conditions, or tiny stature, they are tough as nails and completely capable of handling their own.
Related: 10 Heartwarming Times Thieves Had Second Thoughts
10 Jean Ebbert
According to the Federal Trade Commission, imposter scams have been the number one type of fraud reported each year from 2018 to 2022. One particular imposter scam, known as the “grandparent scam,” occurs when a scammer calls impersonating a grandchild that has gotten themselves in some sort of legal trouble. They tug at the grandparent’s heartstrings during the call, stressing the importance of needing money, and then have a “lawyer” call who asks for funds to be sent through either a wire transfer, the purchase of gift cards, or in some instances picking up the money in person. However, a set of scammers made the wrong choice when they tried this tactic on 73-year-old grandmother Jean Ebbert.
On January 20, 2022, Ebbert received a call from someone posing as her grandson who stated he had been in an accident and charged with a DUI. However, given that Ebbert’s grandchildren were elementary and middle school age, she knew the call was nothing more than a hoax. What the scammers didn’t realize was that Ebbert, who was a retired 911 dispatcher, was about to give them a taste of their own medicine.
Ebbert played along throughout the course of the phone call and even offered to Venmo the $8,000 they requested. However, the scammers insisted that her grandson’s “bail” had to be paid in cash and said they would call later that day to follow up. In the meantime, Ebbert contacted the police, who came to her home to file a report. With officers still in her home, Ebbert received several more calls from the scammers, which she let the officers listen in on. They informed Ebbert that the “bail bondsmen” would be there to collect the money in 10 minutes.
When 28-year-old Joshua Estrella Gomez, the “bail bondsmen,” arrived, Ebbert handed him an envelope she had secretly filled with paper towels. The officers, who had been hiding inside the house, tackled and arrested him. Ebbert managed to scam the scammers, and best of all, the entire situation was recorded on her Ring camera. Gomez was arrested and charged with attempted grand larceny in the third degree.
9 Elaine Gallaway
With 550,000 occurrences of shoplifting happening each day, this crime creates an estimated $50 billion in retail losses each year. Shoplifting impacts not only the retailer but also the community as a whole due to increased prices passed on to consumers, additional burdens that are placed upon the judicial system, and the loss of jobs that happen when stores are forced out of business due to loss from theft. Unfortunately, since a shoplifter is only caught on average once out of the 49 times they steal, shoplifting remains a huge issue. Thankfully, due to one no-nonsense grandma in Canada, a Wal-Mart shoplifter was stopped dead in his tracks.
Standing at only 4’11” tall (1.5 meters) and weighing 125 pounds (57 kilograms), Elaine Gallaway may be tiny, but she’s definitely mighty! So when she was out doing some shopping on January 29, 2022, at a Wal-Mart in Campbell River, British Columbia, and saw a man in a mask shoving roasts in his backpack, she knew she had to do something.
Gallaway notified a Wal-Mart staff member, who assured her they would handle the situation. However, after Gallaway had paid for her items and was leaving the store, she noticed the same man behind her trying to run out with a cart full of items. While trying to leave the store, he ran his cart into Gallaway, which sent her into a fit of rage where she began calling him expletive names and ripped off his mask, engaging in a tug-of-war between the two over his cart. The man eventually gave up the fight with Gallaway and fled the store.
8 June Turner
Convenience stores are, well, just that, convenient. Whether you’re stopping by to grab a cup of coffee or an energy drink to get your day started, picking up a gallon of milk rather than driving all the way to the grocery store, or getting some extra snacks for a road trip, these service stations provide a quick and easy way to get what you need and be on your way. Unfortunately, they are also often targeted for robbery due to their around-the-clock hours, minimal staff, and small stores, making it easy for thieves to quickly get in and out as well. However, one man in the United Kingdom chose to rob the wrong convenience store when he was met by one tough grandma who decided to fight back.
Eighty-two-year-old June Turner had worked at the same store in Hanley, Staffordshire, for the last 45 years and had never experienced a robbery. However, on September 3, 2019, 28-year-old Aaron Mountford entered the store, his face covered with a sleeping bag, and demanded money. While it would be natural to assume that, given Turner’s age and having never experienced a situation like this, she would comply, that was not the case. Turner refused Mountford’s demands and instead grabbed her walking stick and gave him a good beating. After receiving a black eye from Turner, he pushed her down and fled the store with $61 and six packs of cigarettes.
Mountford was apprehended, pleaded guilty to the robbery charges, and sentenced to two years in jail. Mountford was also previously arrested in June 2019 when he and an accomplice stole laundry soap and cereal from another store and threatened the shop owner with a needle, so he will be serving those two years on top of a four-and-a-half-year sentence from the previous robbery.
7 Marcia Black
In 2020, there were 810,400 vehicles stolen, a 12% increase from the previous year, which resulted in a $7.4 billion loss to vehicle owners and insurance companies. Additionally, given that only one-third of stolen vehicles are recovered, twenty-four-year-old Cameron Powers assumed he could get away with being a car thief. However, he made several mistakes besides stealing the car, including leading police on a high-speed chase, then later crashing the car, and taking off on foot. However, his biggest mistake was trying to seek refuge at a local grandmother’s house.
Seventy-five-year-old Alabama grandmother Marcia Black was spending the afternoon of June 17, 2019, with her grandchildren when she received a call from her son Jason, the Limestone District Three Commissioner, advising her that Powers was on the loose. As soon as she spotted Powers approaching, she armed herself with a hunting rifle and walked out onto the front porch to confront him.
Powers insisted he needed to use the phone, but Black knew what he was up to and was willing to do anything necessary to protect her grandchildren who were inside the home. Her granddaughter then called 911. However, Powers wouldn’t give up, and as he crept closer to the home, Black fired the rifle in the air, causing Powers to fall to his knees. Shortly after that, officers arrived, and once again, Powers took off on foot but was quickly captured.
6 Willie Murphy
Each year, 3.7 million houses are broken into, which equates to seven homes being robbed every minute. While occupants or owners are in the home during a robbery 27% of the time, burglars are often less intimidated going through with the crime when either a single woman or young person occupies the dwelling. Unfortunately for one would-be robber in New York, he made a very poor choice in attempting to break into 82-year-old Willie Murphy’s home.
Around 11 pm on November 21, 2019, Willie Murphy was startled by a man who began pounding on her door. The man claimed to be sick and in need of an ambulance. While Murphy did call the police, she wasn’t about to let him in her home. The man became angry and began trying to force his way in, but what he didn’t realize was that Murphy was not your average 82-year-old. Having won the World Natural Powerlifting Federation Upstate New York Championship in 2018, along with the ability to deadlift 225 pounds (102 kilograms), this thief was in for the beating of a lifetime.
Once the man broke Murphy’s door and was inside, she didn’t hesitate to grab a table and “go to work” on him. However, Murphy didn’t stop with the table. She proceeded to jump on the intruder once he had fallen to the floor, poured a bottle of baby shampoo in his face, and finished his punishment by beating him with a broom until the police showed up. Needless to say, at that point, the man was relieved to be taken into custody and for his beating to end. It was later discovered that the man was intoxicated, but Murphy decided not to press charges, given that there was an unlikely chance the man would return.
5 Pauline Jacobi
In the Bible, Psalms chapter 117, verse 6, states, “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man can do unto me.” Ninety-two-year-old grandmother Pauline Jacobi proved that her faith in God was far stronger than her fear of a parking lot robber, which ultimately saved her life.
In December 2007, Jacobi had finished her grocery shopping at a local Wal-Mart in Dyersburg, Tennessee, but as she was putting everything in her car, a man named “Ricky” got in through the passenger’s side and demanded money. Even though Ricky had a gun and threatened to shoot Jacobi, she refused his demands three separate times and told him, “As quick as you kill me, I’ll go to heaven, and you’ll go to hell. Jesus is in this car and goes with me everywhere I go.”
Ricky’s heart was deeply touched by Jacobi’s words, and tears began running down his face. Jacobi continued to minister to him inside the car and told him he needed to ask for forgiveness. Seeing his change of heart, Jacobi gave him all the money she had—$10. Ricky then kissed her on the cheek, thanked her, and went on his way.
4 Queensland Grandma
Adults aged 50 and over control a household net worth of $19 trillion, meaning they own more than three-fourths of the nation’s financial wealth. These statistics, combined with the fact that older adults often use public transportation, make elderly women more vulnerable to thieves and the most common victim of purse snatchings. However, when one purse thief tried to rob a Queensland grandmother of not only her purse but also her birthday celebration, he had no idea what he was in for.
On January 19, 2021, an Australian grandmother was out celebrating her birthday at the Pimpama Tavern in Queensland. As she was dining outside, a man advanced toward her table, grabbed her purse, and ran off. Little did he realize that this grandma was not going to let him get away.
In full pursuit, the grandmother kicked off her shoes, chased after him, and after a bit of a struggle, put him in a headlock before reclaiming her purse and heading back to the birthday celebrations. The man, who was identified as Troy Charles Bennett, fled the scene but was later located and arrested.
3 Gale Smith
One hundred twenty-nine police officers were killed in the line of duty in 2021, with 68 of those deaths occurring during traffic stops and investigations in which the officers were killed with a firearm. So when 66-year-old grandmother Gale Smith witnessed Deputy Kimberly Boissier in an altercation with a suspect, she didn’t hesitate to stop and assist the officer.
On January 31, 2012, 24-year-old Danny Wright kicked off his day in Lancaster, California, in full criminal mode. He first walked into a local church where he assaulted a pastor, then attempted to steal a truck from an automotive shop before trying to steal a woman’s car keys. When Deputy Boissier responded to a call about the attempted carjacking, Wright ran toward her and attempted to grab her gun. As the struggle between the two continued, Wright even went so far as to try and push Boissier in front of a moving bus. It was then that Smith, who just happened to take another route that day to meet some friends for lunch, passed by and saw Deputy Bossier needing help.
Smith got out of her car and ran toward the two, trying to reason with Wright. However, when her grandmotherly approach failed, Smith put her previous Air Force and correctional training to use and put Wright in a carotid restraint. While she was holding Wright, two other men ran up and were able to assist in getting Wright on the ground until backup arrived. Wright was arrested and charged with attempted murder of a police officer, carjacking, and assault. Smith was later honored for her heroic efforts and awarded the Lancaster Sherriff Department Humanitarian Medal.
2 Clarese Gainey
Imagine getting up early in the morning and looking out your window only to see a 300-pound (136-kilogram) man dressed only in boxers attempting to break into your vehicle. While this scenario might seem like a fictional story or a scene from a movie, this was very much the reality for 65-year-old Clarese Gainey of Gainsville, Florida.
In the early morning hours of April 14, 2019, Gainey heard a noise coming from outside her apartment. As soon as she laid eyes on 37-year-old Antonio Mosley, whose ensemble consisted of only a pair of boxer shorts, Gainey knew she had to act quickly. Rather than calling the police first, Gainey grabbed her baseball bat and crept out the front door, but when Mosely saw her, he charged.
However, it only took one good whack to the head from Gainey’s bat before Mosely dropped the pants, shirt, and one sock he had with him and took off on foot. A K-9 unit was able to track Mosely to a nearby mobile home park. While Mosely did have pants on when he was located, along with cocaine in his pocket, it was the bump on his head that confirmed he was their suspect.
1 Judy Memmel
According to the FBI’s Jewelry and Gem Theft Program, more than $100 million of jewelry is stolen each year. However, grandmother and veteran employee of Houston Jewelry in Texas, Judy Memmel, was not going to let a robbery happen on her watch.
Memmel arrived at work on the morning of December 19, 2017, but as she was preparing to unlock the front door and go inside, a man approached and tried to force his way in. Memmel, however, was adamant that he was not getting inside and gave him a good shove out the door. At the same time, he fired a gun that was only inches away from Memmel’s face. Luckily, neither Memmel nor any of the other employees inside the store were hurt by the stray bullets. Another employee, Kathye Parker, hit the store’s panic button, and the suspect fled the scene.