February 5, 2006

Massachusetts Gay Bar Shooting Suspect Dies

BOSTON -- The teenager involved in a bloody attack on three men in a Massachusetts gay bar died early on Sunday morning from wounds sustained in a gun battle with Arkansas police, a police spokesman said.

"Jacob Robida died at 3:38 Central Time (0938 GMT)," Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler told Reuters. "His body will now be released to the state crime lab."

Robida, who had fled 1,500 miles to the Ozark Mountains, was shot twice in the head by police shortly after he crashed his car following a 16-mile (26-km) chase, police said.

The 18-year-old, who had become the subject of a nationwide manhunt after he was accused of wounding three people with a gun and a hatchet in a New Bedford, Massachusetts, gay bar late on Wednesday, shot and killed a police officer in Gassville, Arkansas who had pulled the Pontiac over for a routine traffic stop, police said.

When the high-speed chase ended and police approached the car, Robida traded fire with police who then shot him through the window, police said. A 33-year-old woman from West Virginia, who police said knew the teenager, was found dead in the car after Robida was shot, police said.

Robida died at CoxHealth Hospital in Springfield, Missouri, where he was taken in critical condition on Saturday after being captured, police said.

Last week Robida went on a rampage after walking into Puzzles Lounge in New Bedford, ordering two drinks and asking the bartender "Is this a gay bar?"

After being told it was, the teenager moved to a back area, pulled a hatchet out of his coat and lunged at several men, striking two in the face. He then drew a gun and began firing, witnesses and police said.

By Sunday morning, as news of his death spread through the once-prosperous whaling town on the state's southern coast, police said they were not surprised that the high school dropout died after a shootout.

"We had a feeling he would either commit suicide or try to commit suicide by cop," New Bedford police captain Robert Spirlet said. "Those who commit suicide by cop want to have a shootout with police and know they are going to be killed."

At Robida's grandmother's house the telephone was picked up and immediately placed down again. His mother could not be reached for comment.

Robida's room, searched earlier in the week by police, was filled with neo-Nazi literature and posters slurring gays, Jews and blacks, plus a makeshift coffin.

The mood in New Bedford on Sunday ranged from relief that Robida will not be back to fear that someone else might try to finish what the teenager had planned in the only U.S. state where gay marriage is legal.

"When people use words that are hateful and mean-spirited, people are empowered to act violently," said John Vasconcellos, a local gay activist.