A robbery at a Howard Johnson's restaurant in Alexandria was stopped in midcourse yesterday when a customer tackled and wrestled to the ground a man who had just allegedly scooped $250 in cash out of the register, according to Alexandria police.

Several other customers jumped in to help hold down the alleged robber until police arrived, said Lt. Walter Calhoun. The suspect, Roland Gilbert Lucas, 27, of 3730 Mark Dr. in Alexandria, was taken to Alexandria Hospital where he was being treated for a head injury last night.

Barry Rine, manager of the restaurant on North Washington Street, said he was at the cash register about 12:30 p.m. when a man came up beside him, pushed him out of the way and started to take money out of the drawer.

While Rine ran off to call the police, one of the customers grabbed the man and several others "piled on top," said the manager, who found $250 in loose bills on the floor. The suspect was unarmed, Rine said.

"I was really surprised," Rine said. "You always hope things like that will happen but you don't expect it. If I ever see those customers back here again, they will definitely have a free meal."

"Three cheers for the customers," Calhoun said. "You don't see that often enough." Calhoun said police had obtained a warrant for Lucas' arrest on a charge of robbery.