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3 hit car, soon regret it

By Ann Givens
of the Sentinel Staff

Published in The Orlando Sentinel on November 29, 2000


Call it road rage gone right.

When a car clipped Eliseo Nunez's Nissan on Lee Road, the Orlando medical assistant wasn't about to let the driver get away.

Nunez gave chase Tuesday morning, following the car onto Interstate 4. And when three men stopped the car, climbed out and aimed guns at him, Nunez grabbed his own gun and fired.

Nunez was after justice -- and that was before he knew the trio were suspects in a robbery.

Orange County deputy sheriffs said Franz Paul, 20, Jean David, 18, and Tony Elzar, 24, had just robbed the Cash America Pawn Shop on Lee Road when they collided with Nunez's car and kept going.

Moments before, the suspects had held seven people at gunpoint in the store's walk-in safe while they grabbed thousands of dollars in cash and jewelry, according to witnesses.

Deputies got the call about the robbery about 10:20 a.m. A few minutes later, they got several more calls -- including one from Nunez on his car phone as he was speeding after the suspects.

The suspects' car pulled to the side along I-4, with Nunez right behind. At least two of the men had small caliber semiautomatic handguns. Nunez said he fired a few times at the men as they fled.

Deputies caught up with them at the corner of Formosa and Miller avenues. Two of the men had climbed a tree. The third, who had fled a few blocks away onto Midiron Drive, was caught by police dogs, which bit him several times, deputies said.

The cash and jewelry were found in the car and spilled on the ground nearby. The men were still being interviewed Tuesday evening and had not yet been charged.

Employees at Cash America Pawn said they were afraid for their lives when the suspects drew guns on them. In addition to the store's three employees, there were four customers in the store, including a woman with a baby.

"I was worried about the little child and the mother in there," said Al Ried, the store's assistant manager. "But I knew that if we cooperated it would be all right."

Sheriff's officers Tuesday called Nunez a "Good Samaritan." They don't plan to bring any charges against him. However, they never recommend that civilians use deadly force unless absolutely necessary, Sheriff's Office spokesman Jim Solomons said.

Deputies said Nunez fired four or five times, but he said he could not be sure if the suspects ever fired at him. Witnesses said they heard as many as 10 shots, although deputies hadn't confirmed that.

Officers said Nunez has a gun permit.

"He was chasing robbery suspects. I love it," Capt. James Hollomon said.

Nunez said chasing down the men was not easy, but he doesn't consider himself a hero. His car's airbag opened when the suspects` car hit him, and he drove the rest of the chase with the airbag open.

"Thank goodness I'm alive," he said.

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