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‘Surreal’ experience for robbery victim who watched chase unfold on TV

Updated: 2013-02-15T01:52:28Z

By TONY RIZZO

The Kansas City Star

Television cameras relayed a robbery suspect’s desperate, dangerous flight from police Wednesday as the chase wound through Kansas City into Kansas City, Kan.

For one Kansas City woman, seeing the silver SUV recklessly eluding police unleashed a big jolt of deja vu.

“That’s the same car, exactly,” she said, referring to a vehicle that she said was driven by a man who robbed and assaulted her Saturday night in a Southwest Boulevard parking lot.

The woman was recounting the robbery to detectives at Kansas City police headquarters Wednesday when she saw footage of the chase that ended with a wreck and the suspect’s arrest.

“It was so surreal,” she recalled Thursday.

Other Kansas City police detectives investigating her case Wednesday had spotted the silver Nissan Xterra being driven by a man resembling the suspect in a chase that began at 16th and Washington streets.

The suspect took off. Police pursued. Reaching speeds of 90 mph, the man drove into Kansas City, Kan., weaving and veering through traffic. At times he drove in the wrong lanes of busy streets, through parking lots and off the road before hitting another vehicle at 52nd Street and Georgia Avenue.

The man ran from the wrecked SUV and attempted to hide in shrubs in front of a home, but officers trailing right behind him soon took him into custody. Occupants of the vehicle struck by the SUV suffered minor injuries, police said.

Four days earlier, the woman and her roommate had gone to dinner. As she returned to her vehicle, she saw a silver SUV parked near her car. When she approached, the SUV pulled away.

It wasn’t until she got in her car that she noticed the passenger-side window was broken and her purse and laptop were gone.

Suspecting that the SUV was involved, she walked to the street and saw it parked around the corner. She walked up to the unoccupied vehicle and peered inside.

There, on the front seat, sat her purse and computer bag.

Then the man walked up behind her.

“He was on me in seconds,” she recalled. “He was trying to push me out of the way.”

With no time to think about possible danger, she focused on getting her things back.

“They were right there in arm’s reach,” she said.

But as she reached into the man’s vehicle, he began punching her in the face.

That’s when the victim’s roommate, driving her own vehicle, saw the struggle.

“Believing that the victim possibly was being abducted and was in danger, the witness drove her vehicle … and struck the rear-driver-side quarter panel of the suspect vehicle,” according to a police report recounting the incident.

The man drove away, but not before the victim grabbed the bag containing her laptop. She also snatched up a pill bottle, which she thought might have the suspect’s name on it. Police later determined that the pills had been taken in another auto burglary earlier that night.

“It was a crazy, crazy chain of events,” she said.

She felt it on Thursday. She had to seek medical treatment for neck and back pain as a result of the encounter.

She simply had acted on instinct that night, she said.

“I’m not a fighter,” she said. “I don’t go looking for trouble.”

The woman said that detectives who helped her after she was attacked had been “amazing,” and after seeing the suspect’s dangerous driving on Wednesday, she was glad it ended with no serious injuries or deaths.

“It’s my only consolation, knowing my stupid behavior resulted in him being caught,” she said.

No charges had been filed Thursday in the assault and robbery.

But on Thursday, Wyandotte County prosecutors charged 32-year-old Rodney L. Houston with a felony count of eluding a police officer in connection with Wednesday’s chase.

Bond for the Kansas City, Kan., resident was set at $100,000. He was being held in the Wyandotte County Jail.

To reach Tony Rizzo, call 816-234-4435 or send email to trizzo@kcstar.com.

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