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Suspect in Gay-Bar Attack Wounded in Shootout

Times Staff Writer

A Massachusetts teenager suspected in an attack at a gay bar was apprehended Saturday in a bloody shootout in Arkansas that claimed the lives of a police officer as well as the suspect’s female passenger.

Jacob D. Robida, 18, was in critical condition late Saturday at Cox South Hospital in Springfield, Mo., about an hour and a half from Baxter County, Ark., where the shootings occurred.

Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said police Officer Jim Sell, 63, from the northern Arkansas town of Gassville, was killed shortly after 2:30 p.m. Saturday when he tried to stop Robida, who was wanted in connection with an attack Thursday at a gay bar in New Bedford, Mass. It was not clear whether Sell knew who Robida was when he tried to stop him.

After Sell was shot, Robida’s green 1999 Pontiac was spotted within 15 minutes by state police in the Arkansas community of Mountain Home. Officers pursued the suspect into the town of Norfork, where officers set out spike strips intended to puncture his car tires. The car passed over the spikes without stopping. Moments later, the chase ended with an exchange of gunfire, Sadler said.

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Robida was wounded. His passenger, said to be age 33 and from West Virginia, was pronounced dead at the scene, Sadler said.

Norfork, Ark., is about 1,500 miles from New Bedford. The car Robida was driving had Kentucky license plates.

Police say Robida entered the Puzzles Lounge in New Bedford late Thursday and, after producing false identification that showed him to be of legal drinking age, ordered a rum on the rocks. He reportedly asked the bartender whether Puzzles was a gay bar. Told that it was, he allegedly took out a hatchet and a handgun hidden in his baggy clothing and attacked three men at a pool table.

Robert Perry, 52, was treated and released for bullet wounds and a long gash across his cheek. Alex Taylor and Luis Rosado remained hospitalized with more-serious injuries.

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Robida, a high school dropout, had expressed sympathy for Nazi philosophy but had not voiced prejudice against gays, according to friends in New Bedford. On the website MySpace.com, Robida described a hatchet as his preferred murder weapon.

He also stated that the best form of government was dictatorship. He said his favorite firearm was a machine gun.

The hatchet used in the New Bedford attacks was found outside the bar. New Bedford authorities believed Robida took the gun with him when he fled.

A customer at Puzzles Lounge said Saturday night that he was pleased to hear that Robida had been captured. A manager at the bar, who declined to give his name, called the entire situation “a horrific tragedy.”

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