JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An 84-year-old man kidnapped from his home Wednesday by a robbery suspect fleeing police remained in the intensive care unit Thursday after the chaotic crime spree ended in a violent crash that left him badly injured.
Family members identified the kidnapping victim as Louis Reese, and police later confirmed that information.
The police chase, which began in Mayport and ended in East Arlington, also left two Jacksonville police officers with serious injuries.
Reese was taken to Memorial Hospital and was on a ventilator Thursday, but was acknowledging his doctors with hand signals, the family said.
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They said he is fighting hard, but all of his ribs were broken and he has a broken leg, broken arm, broken spine, collapsed lung and a punctured lung. He underwent surgery Thursday.
Several residents told News4Jax that Reese is helpful and friendly -- their nicest neighbor, always saying hello and trying to help people. His pastor said Reese, a Navy veteran, has attended Oak Harbor Baptist Church for 48 years and is a deacon.
One of his pastors said Reese has been a member for nearly 50 years.
"It's just heartbreaking to know what he’s going through right now, but we’re praying for him and praying for the family and, of course, the officers, too, that went through this -- but it really has impacted the whole community," Pastor David Tarkington said.
Tarkington said he visited with Reese Thursday morning and was able to pray with him.
The church, where Reese is a deacon, is planning a prayer meeting at 6 p.m. Friday for Reese, the injured officers and their family members. The public is invited to attend the vigil, which will be on the front lawn near the sanctuary.
Oak Harbor Baptist Church is located at 2765 State Road A1A, near where the incident occurred.
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The church will be collecting funds for Reese and the injured officers. To donate, go online to www.oakharbor.church and choose the GIVE option. The funds will be distributed between Reese and the two officers, the church said.
Chaotic crime spree
The suspect, later identified by police as Lawrence Hall III, 26, was also hospitalized Wednesday after the crash, which ended a wild crime spree that began just after 2 p.m. when Hall robbed the Lucky Charms Arcade, an internet cafe on Mayport Road, police said.
Police said Hall ran out of the business with a backpack full of money and was tracked by officers from multiple agencies to a residential neighborhood a few blocks away.
Reese's neighbor told News4Jax that his wife and daughter were watching TV in the living room Wednesday when they saw Hall in their yard. The neighbor said Hall opened their screen door and was nearly in the house when the homeowner ran screaming at him and scared him off.
He told News4Jax they saw Hall jump the fence to enter Reece's backyard. Another neighbor said Hall got into Reese's home because it was a nice day and Reese had his back screen door open.
Neighbor Frank Arguilla says he hid behind the tree stump because he knew something was wrong when he saw Hall running and jump the fence.
"All of a sudden the garage door opened up," Arguilla said. "It opened up he put the car in reverse and came out and went that way. It was pretty intense. Never seen anything like this in my neighborhood.
Neighbors pointed out the house Hall was in when police arrived and officers had guns drawn as Reece's silver SUV backed out and drove away. As the vehicle left the neighborhood, the chase ensued.
According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Officer Josh Wiggins, 35, was hit by the stolen SUV while deploying stop sticks at Mayport Road and Wonderwood Drive, a few blocks north of the robbery scene. Minutes later, Officer Christopher Rouselle, 29, was injured at Kernan and Atlantic Boulevards when his cruiser was struck as he tried to stop the stolen SUV, which reached speeds of 100 mph, police said.
Wiggins is a 12-year veteran with the JSO, and Rouselle has been with the agency two years.
Off-duty K-9 Officer Dale Cullen, 28, performed a PIT maneuver on the SUV on Atlantic Boulevard just before it reached St. Johns Bluff Road -- about eight miles from where the initial crime occurred. The SUV spun around and slammed into a concrete power pole, splitting it in half. Cullen, a five-year JSO veteran, was not injured.
Power lines fell on the vehicle, causing a small fire, which officers put out with fire extinguishers before firefighters could arrive. Reese and Hall were pulled from the vehicle and taken to the hospital.
Hall's condition was listed as critical Thursday by Memorial Hospital officials. He is charged with fleeing law enforcement and attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.
Police said further charges related to the internet cafe robbery and Reese's kidnapping are pending.
Tarkington said Reese's family is not only worried about his condition but is still trying to piece together everything that happened.
"You know, it’s a shock, the events that took place you," the pastor said. "See this and you wonder… this happens in movies and things, but this really happened here and it impacted an individual we know. Every time a story like this takes place I think, sometimes, we may miss that it impacts real people."