Man pays price for catching up to burglar
By CHRIS TISCH
© St. Petersburg Times,
SEMINOLE -- Gary Cox finished watering his lawn about 11 p.m. Tuesday, then stepped to his neighbor's house. They chatted in the driveway.
Suddenly, a man zipped out of Cox's garage, an armful of Cox's fishing poles cradled in his arms. Cox and his neighbor, Steven Ducker, gave chase.
The burglar ran about 30 yards to a getaway car. But the driver of the car apparently saw the men in pursuit and zoomed away, leaving the burglar with an armful of fishing poles.
He dropped the poles and kept running.
Replaying the incident in his head on Wednesday, Cox wishes he had let the guy go. Instead, he kept up the chase -- and got slashed with a Swiss Army knife.
Cox, a 34-year-old nurse's aid, probably will miss a month of work because of stab wounds and cuts to his arms that Pinellas sheriff's officials said took nearly 100 stitches to close.
"I shouldn't have kept after him like that," Cox said Wednesday from his home, 9376 132nd St. N. "That was pretty stupid."
After the burglar dropped the poles, he ran to another neighbor's house, where he tried to scale a fence. Cox yanked him down by the shirt, which wrapped around the burglar's head.
Meanwhile, Ducker told a neighbor to call 911.
"It was pretty dramatic," recalled the neighbor, Waid Tribiano. "It was a pretty intense situation."
Back at the fence, Cox had the burglar in a headlock. He thinks that is when the burglar stabbed him, but he didn't feel anything.
"Adrenaline was flowing," he said. "I didn't really feel the pain. Until I looked and saw the blood flowing, I didn't even realize I had been cut."
Inside, Tribiano grabbed his cell phone and came running out. The 6-foot-2-inch, 230-pound Tribiano was about to tackle the 150-pound burglar when Ducker told him: "Don't go near him. He has a knife."
Tribiano put his fingers to work instead, dialing 911. The burglar dropped the knife and took off. Ducker ran after him.
Meanwhile, Cox was losing blood.
"He started to get woozy," Tribiano said.
Paramedics arrived and took Cox to Sun Coast Hospital.
Sheriff's deputies flooded into the area, including a deputy with a K-9 named Echo, who helped chase down the suspected burglar. The three neighbors identified him as the man they had chased.
Gulfport resident James Murcel Antoine, 38, was arrested on charges of aggravated battery and burglary, along with several charges of probation violation and failure to appear in court.
He declined to speak with deputies after he was read a Miranda warning.
His Florida criminal record: 20 arrests in the past 20 years.
Most of the arrests were for drug possession. He also has a previous arrest for burglary and dealing in stolen property, state records show.
Antoine was being held at the Pinellas County Jail Wednesday evening in lieu of $95,939 bail.
"If anything, we got him off the street for a while," Cox said.
But Cox said it wasn't worth the risk. He suffered 7-inch-long lacerations on both arms. The right arm wound is the worst, about 2 inches deep. He said he expects to make a full recovery.
"It could have been a gun. It could have been a much bigger knife," he said. "It could have been my throat."
Law enforcement officials say it is safest to back off in such a situation.
"Be the best witness you can and help law enforcement the best you can, but don't be a hero," said Sgt. Greg Tita, a sheriff's spokesman. "He came close. One stab wound to the heart and then this is a different story altogether. The fishing poles -- is that really worth losing your life over?"
Cox said he and his wife moved into the $150,000 home about a month and a half ago, choosing Seminole because they thought it was safe.
Tribiano said the incident is a tribute to neighbors looking out for one another and keeping a good neighborhood safe.
"It was a group effort. It was a combination of all of us," he said. "We're neighbors, we have children. This place is loaded with good people.
"The three of us nailed that son of a b----."
- Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report. Chris Tisch can be reached at 445-4156.
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