2000-12-09 / Front Page

Cabbies Save The Day Strong Arm Robbery Thwarted By Joan Ward George

Cabbies Save The Day
Strong Arm Robbery Thwarted
By Joan Ward George

Beach Car Service driver Robert Pell was robbed and nearly killed early Sunday evening by two Arverne teenagers who he had been dispatched to pick up in front of their home address at 54-22 Beach Channel drive.

Jamel Cooks, 19, and Jermaine Abbott, 18, have been arrested and charged with attempted murder, first degree robbery and criminal possession of a weapon.

Pell, a Rockaway Beach resident, was on duty at approximately 7:30 p.m. when he was dispatched to the Beach Channel address for a call to go to Beach 96 street. Once there, two young black males entered the cab, sat in the back, and Pell proceeded to his assigned location. According to the driver, as they approached Beach 77 street, the two passengers told him they were headed for the church on the 200 block. Although thinking it odd that this was not the original destination, Pell noticed that all the church lights were on and assumed that there had just been some mistake in communication. When Pell pulled over to the curb, the passenger seated in the back side passenger seat got out of the cab and told the other passenger to pay the fare. Pell said the second passenger slid out of the seat behind him while the first passenger slid back in, put his hand through the window of the cab’s partition and placed a 9mm Gluck automatic weapon to his head.

"You know what time it is, give me your money," said the perp to Pell, all the while holding the gun to Pell’s head. Pell handed over what he believes was between $50 and $65. The perp, not thrilled with the small amount of money offered to him by Pell, asked for more. He also demanded jewelry. Pell, who explained that he had his hands pulled up in the air in an unconscious effort to deflect bullets, said that he had no jewelry because he didn’t wear jewelry. According to Pell, the perp then began to count and at number three he pulled back the cylinder of the gun and pulled the trigger. The gun backfired, sparing Pell death or injury. Pell then told The Wave that he gunned the engine of the cab and the perp fell out onto the street.

When Pell reached Beach 79 street and Rockaway Beach boulevard, he called Beach Car Service with their burglary signal. "Anytime anyone of our drivers are in trouble, every one else on the road responds to help," said Pell. Within minutes the streets were humming with Beach Car Service drivers out to protect their fellow driver and try to find the perpetrators. One driver flagged down a New York City Police Department Transit Unit from District 23, and together they spotted both of the perpetrators at Beach 75 street and Rockaway freeway. They followed and at Beach 74 street and Amstel boulevard one of the perps managed to get away while the other was collared by Police Officer Butrico, of Transit District 23. Another cab driver observed who he believed to be the second perp at in the area near Carlton Manor, 71-15 Beach Channel drive. According to Pell, several other cab drivers responded to the area as well as officers from the 100 Precinct, and managed to block off all areas of escape. The second perp was arrested at 346 Beach 69 street.

Was it standing operating procedure for the partition window to be open? According to Pell that’s exactly what you do when it’s time to collect your fare. He did say that he was really happy that the front door of his vehicle was locked, as it should be, so neither one of the perps were able to slide in beside him, either at the beginning of the call or when they stopped at Beach 72 street. Pell, who was to return to duty on Wednesday afternoon, said that the incident did spook him, but it wasn’t the first time it happened. He had been shot at twice once before while driving a cab.

Pell, who stopped by The Wave offices earlier this week to share his story, mostly because of the heartfelt thanks he had for his co-workers and the transit and 100 Precinct police officers that came to his aid. "I really needed to thank everyone for their cooperation in the quick apprehension of these perpetrators, for taking them off the streets and helping to save my life."

A spokesperson for the Queens District Attorney’s office told The Wave Wednesday that both Abbott and Cooks remained incarcerated. Abbott is being held on $50,000 bail and Cooks is being held on $20,000 bail. They are set to go to trial on December 18, 2000. The gun that Cooks and Abbott allegedly used during the robbery was recovered.

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