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    Taxi driver is charged in slaying attempt

    Police say a Vets Cab driver argued with a man and tried to run him down with his van, a taxi. The suspect was held without bail.

    By CHRIS TISCH
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published January 31, 2002


    LARGO -- The alert indicated police would know it if they saw it.

    The alert told officers to be on the lookout for a green 1997 Plymouth van, which was a taxi. And there could be a crowbar stuck in the windshield.

    The man behind the wheel was wanted on a charge of trying to murder someone with the taxi.

    Ten minutes later, a police officer saw the van, crowbar still in the glass, in a McDonald's parking lot.

    The taxi driver was sitting in the restaurant. He was eating a chicken sandwich.

    Police say the chain of events began about 1 p.m. Tuesday when the cabbie, Robert Souza, 62, tried to run over 37-year-old Robert Klisus with his taxi. The incident occurred at Klisus' residence at 610 West Bay Drive.

    Police said Souza, who drives for Vets Cab Co., had given Klisus, his girlfriend and a neighbor rides from time to time. Witnesses told police Souza went to the residence Tuesday afternoon looking for a jacket and then got into an argument with Klisus.

    "Apparently, the defendant made a phone call to the victim's neighbor and was looking for a jacket, which prompted him to come to their apartment," said Largo police Officer Timothy Block.

    Souza then got back in his taxi, backed up and accelerated toward Klisus, police said. The van struck Klisus, causing minor injuries to his wrist and shoulder, police said.

    Souza then drove in a circle and drove again toward Klisus, who was in the front porch area, but the van struck only chairs, police said.

    At one point, Klisus grabbed a crowbar from a tool belt inside his front door and hurled it at the van, police said. The crowbar hit the windshield sideways, shattering it, but not breaking all the way through.

    Souza drove off, crowbar still lodged in the glass, and apparently headed to McDonald's six blocks away.

    Police were called to Klisus' residence, and they issued the alert for officers to be on the lookout for the van. An officer saw the van at the McDonald's at 1250 West Bay Drive.

    Witnesses also told police Souza had at one time exited the van and pointed a gun at Klisus. Block said he didn't find a gun after Souza was found at the McDonald's.

    Souza, whose last known address is in Naples, was taken into custody on an attempted murder charge. Block said Souza appeared to be under the influence of drugs when he was arrested.

    "He fell asleep on the way to jail," Block said. "It just seemed like he'd been up for a long time."

    Souza was being held without bail Wednesday at the Pinellas County Jail.

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