A witness taking a 3 a.m. cigarette break almost led to the capture of a violent pair of "bump-and-rob" suspects in Delray Beach, according to a police report.
Robert Telesca, 35, had returned home from his restaurant job early Thursday and was having a smoke when he heard someone beyond some hedges screaming outside his home. He thought a couple was arguing.
"I heard a gunshot, then another, then another one," he said.
Telesca ran into his home, grabbed his cell phone and his shoes, then jumped in his truck and drove up to the victims on South Military Trail near Gramercy Square Drive.
"I looked down and the guy was shot on his right side," Telesca said. "I asked if it was anywhere near his heart and he said, 'No it's fine."
Police found Malcolm Prude, 20, sitting on the ground with bullet wounds to the back of his neck and right shoulder. They also found three .22-caliber casings on the ground, two .22-caliber rounds, a bullet hole in the roof of the victim's car and blue paint on the rear bumper where Prude's car was hit, according to the Delray Beach police report.
Before police arrived, Prude's girlfriend, Brisa Romero, 23, told Telesca a dark-colored Jeep with a blue-and-white tag and a partial number of W44 sped away north on Military Trail, so Telesca gave chase.
"I hauled a-- onto Atlantic Avenue doing like 100 miles an hour trying to catch them because I assumed the first thing they were going to do was try to get on a main highway to get out of there," he said. "But, I didn't see any taillights."
He returned home to find police and paramedics with the victims.
"I was just upset I couldn't catch them," Telesca said. "I wanted to catch them so bad."
So do several law enforcement agencies in Palm Beach County. They have been searching for at least two suspects responsible for bump and rob crimes in unincorporated Palm Beach County, Riviera Beach, North Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Greenacres, Palm Springs, Delray Beach and Boynton Beach.
Prude was the first of two bump-and-rob victims shot within 30 minutes of each other on Thursday. The second man was shot in the face and robbed of $900 on Olive Avenue near Palmetto Street in West Palm Beach, but he survived too, police said.
Prude could not be reached for comment despite several voice mail messages left on his phone. Romero declined to comment when reached by phone.
The suspects typically are driving a stolen vehicle when they bump the back of the victim's vehicle in low-traffic areas between midnight and 6 a.m. When the victims get out and look for damage, they are robbed at gunpoint of their cell phones, wallets, purses or other valuables, investigators said.
In some cases, suspects either forced their victims to drive to an ATM to withdraw money or the victims were confronted while using ATMs, detectives said. Police are urging people to be aware of their surroundings, especially while using ATMs.
ATM cameras have taken pictures of at least one suspect and detectives hope someone will recognize him and call police.
Several law enforcement agencies ask anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at 800-458-8477.
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