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Police identify suspect in New Bedford bar attack

NEW BEDFORD -- Police continued their hunt late today for an armed suspect who shot two people and slashed another inside a popular gay nightclub.

The incident occurred about midnight inside the Puzzles Lounge on North Front Street. A bartender, who asked that his name not be used because he feared for his life, said a man armed with a hatchet, a machete, and a handgun attacked patrons before he fled the bar.

Police identified the suspect as Jacob D. Robida, 18, of New Bedford, and said he is wanted for three counts of attempted murder. He is described as wearing a black trench coat, and was last seen driving a 1999 green Pontiac Grand Am with a Massachusetts license plate, 85E-C58.

Police Capt. Richard Spirlet said Robida walked into Puzzles armed with a handgun and "some sort of cutting instrument," and attacked people without being provoked.

"Obviously we have a man who's dangerous, who's not rational, and he has weapons," said Bristol District Attorney Paul Walsh Jr.

Robida is known to New Bedford police because he graduated in 2001 from the city's Junior Police Academy, according to acting Police Chief David Provencher. The "boot camp" program is designed to teach discipline to 12- to 14-year-olds.

The bartender said the man came into the bar, ordered a drink, and asked if it was a gay bar. He was told that it was.

A few minutes later, the man drifted to the rear of the bar where two patrons were playing pool, the bartender said.

Moments later, the suspect began attacking the men playing pool, pulled out a hatchet and attacked one patron, the bartender said. Another patron who tried to intervene was attacked with the hatchet.

The bartender said a group of patrons wrestled the man to the ground, but he pulled out a gun. He said the gunman fired one round in the air and then started shooting at the patrons.

The suspect fired several more shots and was running towards the door when the bartender said he confronted him. The bartender said the suspect pointed a gun at his face and fired, but the weapon misfired. The suspect then ran outside and escaped.

According to a court filing attached to the warrant, a woman in the bar recognized Robida as a current or former student at New Bedford High School. School officials declined to confirm whether Robida was enrolled there.

Robida was described as a short, stocky white man with dark hair.

"He's definitely considered armed and dangerous and has extremely violent tendencies," Spirlet said.

The injured men were identified by police as Robert Perry of Dartmouth, Alex Taylor of Fairhaven, and Luis Rosado of New Bedford.

Two were taken to Boston hospitals and a third was taken to St. Luke's Hospital in New Bedford, and later transferred to an undisclosed hospital. Police said that one of the victims was in critical condition, but would not say which one.

One man has a gunshot wound to the chest, another has a gunshot wound to the back and severe cuts to his face, and a third has multiple cuts, police said. They would not specify which man suffered which injuries.

Perry was listed in good condition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Puzzles is popular with the local gay community and is listed on several Web sites offering resources to gays and lesbians. Police said they rarely respond to reports of trouble there.

"If all the bars in the city were that quiet, we'd be great," Spirlet said.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.)

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