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From Our October 2017 Senior Beacon

A Senior Beacon Special Report: One Victim's Story - But it Could Be Yours

By Chuck Green, retired editor-in-chief, The Denver Post

PUEBLO 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 against them.

And Eugene?

"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. "I don’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 next."

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 his own.

--- --- ---

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 victim.

The next Eugene or the next little lady leaving the grocery store.


Colorado native Chuck Green won several state and national

journalism awards during his 35 years as a reporter, editor,

columnist, editorial-page editor,

editor-in-chief and vice president

of The Denver Post.

He is at chuckgreencolo@comcast.net




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