WEST, CO –This is Eugene’s story, but it very easily could be
yours, or someone’s whom you love. And, to one degree or
another, it happens every day in southern Colorado – possibly on
a street near you.
Eugene is a self-employed, 63-year-old
construction worker, putting in long, dusty hours to support his
family. He has invested in heavy-duty tools, an excavator and much
of his life’s savings. Aside from his occasional day or evening
with his family, his work is his life. It’s been a struggle, but
lately his hard work has started to pay off – more money coming
in than going out, a reliable base of customers, better times just
around the corner.
On a nice, sunny day last month, he pulled off
to the side of a street near Pueblo’s main Post Office, after a
trip for supplies at the north-side Lowe’s. In broad daylight,
about an hour past lunch time. He stopped (a responsible driver)
to text his wife. By putting his six-year old Tahoe SUV in park,
the doors automatically unlocked – something he hadn’t before
thought about. As he was texting, with his window rolled down, a
woman suddenly appeared and asked for a ride. Then a man got into
the back seat on the passenger’s side and asked Eugene, "Do
you want to get shot?"
Fear took a strangle-hold on Eugene. With the
woman in the front passenger’s seat and the man behind her, they
told Eugene to start driving. Going south on I-25 from U.S. 50,
through the main part of town, they guided Eugene to the Central
Avenue exit, then drove seemingly aimlessly through the
neighborhoods. Suddenly the man yelled, "Stop here!"
Eugene did as he was ordered as the man scooted
over, getting behind Eugene. Then he reached over the seat and
used his arm to put Eugene in a choke hold. As Eugene fought to
breathe, the woman took his cell phone and wallet. The man
loosened his grip and told Eugene to get out of the SUV. While he
was trying to escape, the woman slid into the driver’s seat,
with Eugene only partially out of the vehicle. The woman stepped
on the gas pedal with Eugene half in and half out of the Tahoe,
and she started to drive off – as Eugene hung on for dear life.
He was afraid to let loose for fear of being
run over by his own vehicle. His left arm was scraping on the
street as the woman drove, "about half a block or more –but
it seemed like forever," Eugene recalls.
Finally, Eugene let go and fell to the
pavement. Stunned and bleeding, he walked until he saw a man and
some helpers working in a front yard. The man helped Eugene to the
porch and called police and an ambulance. "It seemed like
they were there in two seconds – I was amazed how fast they got
there," Eugene remembers.
--- --- ---
While Eugene was working hard that day, the man
and woman who assaulted him were in jail. Five hours after they
were released that morning, they accosted Eugene, took him on
their joy ride, robbed him and left him lying on the street,
broken ribs, bleeding and grated arm, scared and confused.
A police officer soon spotted his stolen Tahoe
and chased it through several neighborhoods on the South side,
until it crashed into a parked car and a wall. The man was alone
in the vehicle; the woman had already Fled. She was found and
arrested several days later.
Both perpetrators – Lawrence Maxwell, 27, and
Antwanette Springs, 33 -- are facing several criminal charges,
including kidnapping, assault and auto theft.
But that’s not the end of the story.
--- --- ---
The Pueblo Chieftain dutifully reported
the incident and arrests. The newspaper recited all the vital
facts of the assault, the perpetrators’ identities and the cases
"The victim of the carjacking is said to
be recovering at home," is all the newspaper reported at the
time of Ms. Springs’ arrest.
One single sentence.
Nothing was reported about his injuries, his life’s work, his
hours of terror, his panicked wife. Nothing was said about his
loss of income as a self-employed worker, or his wrecked truck, or
the possible skin grafts to repair his shredded arm. Nothing was
reported about his fear of losing his arm completely, or his
inability to work again, or the
emotional and financial toll to his family.
During his early days of rehabilitation, he
couldn’t sleep well, couldn’t sit comfortably, couldn’t
stand for long, had difficulty breathing without constant pain,
couldn’t cough without agony.
And as time passed that first couple of weeks,
the pain and hurt got worse. His wife, a former nurse, daily
changes the elaborate dressings on his infection-susceptible arm.
But, bad as it is, those are the physical
wounds. "I can bounce back from that pretty easily. We’re
going to be okay; we’ll get through this," he declares.
"But the hard thing to get over is my disappointment in
humankind," he admits. "Idon’t
know if that will ever heal – certainly not soon."
--- --- ---
Most of us don’t give the next few minutes
much thought. We go along with our lives, doing what needs to be
done – taking the next left turn, opening the mail, feeding the
dog, looking at the TV schedule, fixing that old nail hole in the
wall, doing the laundry, sending an e-mail to a friend, loading
the dish washer, and on and on and on.
We don’t think about the doors unlocking when
putting the car in "PARK." We don’t think about being
car-jacked while texting at the side of the street. We don’t
read about a crime in the newspaper and think, "I could be
And that’s as it should be – we can’t
live in fear all the time, we can’t always be looking over our
shoulder, we can’t lock ourselves in the house day and night.
We have lives to live, places to go, things to
do, stuff that needs to get done.
That’s what Eugene was doing one nice August
afternoon – just doing what needed to be done, minding his own
business, living life.
And then Lawrence and Antwanette suddenly were
at his car door and his trip through hell began, by no fault of
--- --- ---
An elderly woman was leaving a grocery store on
the south side of Pueblo recently, walking to where her daughter
was waiting in their car. A stranger suddenly grabbed the lady’s
purse and knocked her to the ground.
Like Eugene, she was having a quiet day, just
doing her thing, when a thug intruded into her world. Police cars,
an ambulance, a small crowd of shoppers, a terrified woman and her
daughter, suddenly thrown a wild curve ball.
Another despicable mugger on the run, another
crime statistic, another life turned into turmoil.
Yes, it could happen to you, and unfortunately
there’s little to prevent it. Short of living in paranoia or
constant fear, we can only hope that we are not the next innocent
The next Eugene or the next little lady leaving
the grocery store.