Monday, November 29, 2004


Minutes after four young men robbed a Hiltonia resident of $1,500 cash Sunday night and threatened to rape his teenage daughters, one of the suspects lay dead under the victim's sport utility vehicle on nearby Route 29. The unidentified young man was killed after he jumped from his car and began shooting at the SUV driven by Robert O'Neal, 54, who had given chase. O'Neal ran him over, police said.

"I didn't mean for this to happen," O'Neal said yesterday, fighting back tears. "I'm a single parent with two daughters. They had my credit cards, my wallet. They knew where I lived." A union iron worker with Local 68, O'Neal has lived in the Hiltonia section of the city almost two decades. "This (criminal activity) has got to stop," he said. "If we don't stand up for ourselves, it won't stop."

Detectives said yesterday that the four men robbed O'Neal in front of his home about 9 p.m. Sunday.... Witnesses to the two-vehicle chase said numerous shots were fired before and after the cars crashed. A .25-caliber, silver handgun was found at the scene, police said. O'Neal said he knew he was being shot at but doesn't remember running anyone over. "I don't remember exactly what happened on Route 29," he said. O'Neal followed the robbers from his home at the corner of Cornwall and Stanley avenues toward Hilvista Boulevard, a police report said. Both vehicles then went down Hilvista to Sullivan Way and made a left. When the vehicles came to the intersection of Sullivan Way and Route 29, O'Neal's sport utility vehicle struck the rear of the station wagon.

The gunman who was eventually run over began firing from a rear window of the station wagon, the report said. Both vehicles then turned onto Route 29 north and O'Neal struck the station wagon a second time, which sent both vehicles onto the large, grassy median that separates the highway's northbound and southbound lanes. One of the robbers then jumped from the car, which had been disabled by the collisions, and began firing at O'Neal's SUV, the report said.

While O'Neal can't remember what happened next, police and a gas station attendant at the Sunoco across the street from the crash said the SUV ran over the gunman. "Right now, you could say this is in self-defense," Medina said. "The suspect shot more than once (at O'Neal). Definitely the (robbery) victim felt like his life was in immediate danger."

The incident began as O'Neal and his teenage daughters arrived home, police said. The 16- and 17-year-old girls went inside while O'Neal was locking his car, but he didn't make it to the front door before the four robbers approached him demanding money. "When they threatened to rape my daughters, that was it," he said. "They put a gun to my head. . . . I was afraid they were going to come back." O'Neal said concern for his family's safety overwhelmed him and he jumped in his vehicle and gave chase. "This happens all the time and (robbers) always get away," he said. "The safety of my kids and I came first."

More here

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