FOR WORTH — Seven years ago, Bubba Schafer captured a man prowling around his neighbor's yard and held him until police arrived.
The prowler turned out to be Manuel Salamanca Jr., a serial rapist wanted in nine sexual assaults in Tarrant and Johnson counties.
Schafer was hailed as a hero. People threw him parties and gave him awards. The city of Arlington, where Schafer lives, proclaimed June 4, 2002, Edwin "Bubba" Schafer Day.
Somewhat embarrassed, Schafer decided to use his newfound celebrity to help rape victims: He started an annual golf tournament to raise money for the rape crisis program at The Women’s Center.
And now, seven years and more than $130,000 later, Schafer has unexpectedly found himself in the limelight again.
On Thursday, Schafer will receive the second annual Mitch Poe Public Service Award from the Tarrant County Sexual Abuse Advisory Council. The award, named for the late Tarrant County prosecutor, is given to people who are strong advocates for people who are sexually abused.
"It caught me off guard a little bit," said Schafer, 49, a supervisor at Vought Aircraft. "When I started this seven years ago, I never expected anything like this."
Deborah Caddy, the council's membership chairwoman and the director of The Women's Center's rape crisis program, called Schafer a humble hero. "That is one of the many endearing things about him," Caddy said. "He just blushes and puts his head down if you call him a hero. But to his community, he was a hero.
"There were nine women that we knew of that had been raped by Salamanca. How many future victims were spared by these serial rapists? He is a hero, he was a hero, he remains a hero."
Catching a prowler
Shortly after midnight on May 24, 2002, Schafer received a call from his neighbor’s daughter.
A stranger was in the back yard of their south Arlington home, she told him. She and her mother were home alone.
Schafer jumped out of bed, grabbed a flashlight and confronted the prowler, who was trying to flee in his truck. Schafer jumped between the man and the truck’s door, preventing the man from closing it. He held the steering wheel so the man couldn’t leave.
Schafer said the man told him he had gone behind his neighbor’s house to urinate.
"That threw up a flag for me, and I could also smell alcohol on his breath," Schafer said. "I held him there until the police got there. We thought it was a burglar. Later, the Arlington police told me he was a serial rapist that they had been looking for."
Schafer instantly became a local hero. In Cleburne, where some of Salamanca’s victims lived, residents threw him a block party. He received plaques and proclamations. He was even an Arlington STARS (Star-Telegram Awards Recognizing Service) nominee for Man of the Year in 2003.
"My wife and I were coming back from one of these proclamation days and I was thinking, 'Why are people giving me all this praise?’ There are people getting raped and victimized, and I’m looking like a good guy."
Schafer, an avid golfer, said he and his family decided to organize a benefit golf tournament to help rape victims. An Arlington police officer suggested he partner with the rape crisis program at The Women’s Center.
Caddy remembers the day she received a call from Schafer. "He said he is overwhelmed by this and what these victims must go through, and he wants to find a way to pay back and help those victims," Caddy said. "He said, 'I play golf and would like to sponsor a golf tournament for the rape crisis program.’ "
And so the Bubba Schafer Golf Tournament was born.
Caddy said the money that the golf tournaments have raised over the years — $132,000 — has helped their program immensely. The rape crisis program provides counseling and support to victims and their families, including assisting them at hospitals, accompanying them to court, and staffing a 24-hour hot line for crisis situations.
"We have a current waiting list of over 100 people waiting to receive our services," she said. "That money is essential in this economy. It is just so wonderful to partner with him."
Schafer is to receive the award today during the advisory council’s two-day conference at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Schafer said he is flattered but said giving back has been rewarding enough.
"It is a real satisfaction to know that you can raise as much money as we have in the last six years, and it goes to someone who actually needs it," Schafer said. "I’m a firm believer in, 'If you give, good things are going to happen.’ "