your connection to The Boston Globe

Teen wanted in gay bar rampage is caught

NEW BEDFORD -- A New Bedford teenager wanted for attacking three men in a gay bar shot and killed a police officer and an unidentified woman in a tiny Arkansas town yesterday before being shot by police and apprehended, Bristol District Attorney Paul Walsh Jr. said last night.

Jacob D. Robida, 18, was shot twice in the head and hospitalized in Springfield, Mo., listed in critical condition last night, Walsh said.

New Bedford police Captain Richard Spirlet said last night that police had informed the families of the three men whom Robida allegedly attacked early Thursday that the massive manhunt for the young suspect had ended in Gassville, Ark., a town of 1,714 located on the high plains of the Ozark Mountains.

Walsh said Robida had been stopped by a police officer who spotted his green Pontiac Grand-Am at an intersection near the Brass Door, a motel in Gassville, located about 1,500 miles from New Bedford, Walsh said. It was around 2:38 p.m.

''He opened fire on a police officer, killing the officer and then took off," said Walsh.

Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler identified the slain officer as Jim Sell, a member of the Gassville police force. Sadler said he did not know the name of the woman who died.

Walsh said the suspect was then chased down a local highway, where troopers set out spike strips intended to puncture tires, Sadler said. He was stopped in Norfork, Ark., before opening fire again, Walsh said.

''He killed the girl who was with him and then he was shot," Walsh said.

''It is an ongoing homicide investigation," investigator Scott Thrasher of the Gassville Police Department, told a local newspaper, The Baxter Bulletin.

Robida, a collector of neo-Nazi and skinhead paraphernalia, had been wanted since he walked into Puzzles Lounge early Thursday, asked a bartender, ''Is this a gay bar," and then allegedly launched a savage attack with a hatchet and handgun. He severely injured three patrons, before witnesses said he was attacked by other patrons and then fled. New Bedford police had been searching for his car, the green 1999 Pontiac Grand-Am.

Last night, at Puzzles Lounge, bartender Tom MacNeil said one of Robida's alleged victims, Robert Perry, had returned to Puzzles when New Bedford's mayor and police commissioner arrived and told him that Robida had been captured. Perry, 52, a paramedic and father of four, had been shot in the back and slashed in the face during Thursday night's attack.

''It was emotional . . . there was hugging," MacNeil said of the relief that swept through the bar last night. ''He was very happy. Hopefully we can put it behind us," said MacNeil. ''Hopefully the legal system will do its job."

Phillip Daggett, 26, another bartender at Puzzles, said Robida had pointed a gun at his head during the attack. Robida allegedly pulled the trigger, but the gun did not go off. Last night, he said he was relieved when he heard news of the capture.

''It's just been three nights that I haven't been able to sleep," said Daggett. ''I still look over my shoulders. Every noise I hear makes me jump. It's a relief. I'm glad they put a little closure to this and put an end to it. . . . I'm still concerned his circle of friends share the same animosity he has."

Police who had searched Robida's home, where he lived with his parents, found homemade posters disparaging gays, African-Americans, and Jews; neo-Nazi literature and skinhead paraphernalia; a makeshift coffin; and an empty knife sheath. In New Bedford, Robida, who had swastika tattoos, had surrounded himself with other teenagers who cut a similarly intimidating profile, residents said. He also cultivated friends online, using the nickname ''Jake Jekyll" on the popular website

''I know they'll catch him," said Elizabeth Taylor, the mother of Alex Taylor, 29, earlier in the day. ''I mean, he is 18 and disturbed." Alex Taylor was hit in the head with a hatchet.

New Bedford residents said they were disgusted by the attack, though not surprised that it had allegedly been perpetrated by a teen with a habit of spewing racial epithets. People in this working-class fishing community, located 55 miles south of Boston, said they try to show tolerance for gays and that the attack had scarred not only the victims but the city's sense of decency.

''This is the first time there's ever been this nonsense, and I hope it's the last time," said Ron Ouellet, 44, who lives across from Puzzles.

Police say Robida walked into Puzzles early Thursday with a hatchet and handgun. After ordering a drink and asking a bartender, ''Is this a gay bar?" he swung the hatchet at a patron and opened fire, police said. Robert Perry, 52, of Dartmouth was shot in the back and slashed on the face, Luis Rosado, 22, of New Bedford was shot in the chest and Taylor, was slashed in the head, police said. All were expected to survive. Robida has not been seen since the attack, police said.

''We feel he is going to be OK in time. It's not good right now," said Elizabeth Taylor speaking in the doorway of her home.

''City's gone bad," said Gilly Medeiros, 51, a variety store clerk, who was walking on Acushnet Avenue, near Puzzles, yesterday. ''Everybody's got guns. You don't open your mouth because you might get shot."

With his swastika tattoos and surly mien, Robida often intimidated local residents, people here said.

''They're all whacked out," said Manny Chase, 54, a retired ice factory worker, who was on Acushnet Avenue, and said he had once seen Robida and his friends.

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives