http://www.eagletribune.com/punews/loca ... 810?page=0
Published: March 30, 2007 12:00 am
Vigilante cabbie cleared of attempted murder charge
By Jim Patten , Staff Writer
LAWRENCE - A Lawrence cab driver, who took the law into his own hands and shot an alleged robber in the back, has been cleared of attempted murder charges.
Bienvenido Rodriguez shot the man with a semiautomatic handgun after being robbed at knifepoint on Parker Street in January.
Police disagreed with Rodriguez's vigilante action and charged him with attempted murder.
But this week, the Essex County grand jury in Salem declined to indict Rodriguez, 36, of Camden Street, Methuen.
However, the same grand jury indicted the man who was shot.
Herman Irene, 36, of 25 Foster St., Lawrence, faces a charge of armed robbery, said Stephen O'Connell, spokesman for the Essex County district attorney's office.
"There will be no prosecution of Mr. Rodriguez," O'Connell said.
Yesterday, Lawrence police Chief John Romero said Rodriguez would have been facing less serious charges if he had pulled his gun while the robbery was being committed, instead of waiting until Irene was running away and no longer a threat.
Irene was running down Parker Street when Rodriguez drew his .40-caliber Smith &Wesson semiautomatic pistol and fired at him.
The bullet passed through Irene's body narrowly missing his spine and major arteries.
He was taken to Lawrence General Hospital then airlifted to Brigham and Women's Hospital were he underwent surgery.
Police charged Irene with armed robbery and assault with a dangerous weapon.
Rodriguez was charged with armed assault with intent to murder, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and discharging a firearm within city limits.
Rodriguez told investigators immediately after the shooting that he did not deliberately try to hit Irene and only shot to scare him, police said.
Romero said yesterday he was not surprised the grand jury did not indict Rodriguez, but said it would be up to Methuen police Chief Joseph Solomon to decide whether to restore Rodriguez's license to carry firearms. Methuen issued the gun license originally.
Solomon said yesterday his department will request all of the reports and other information the Lawrence police and district attorney's office have on the matter and evaluate them before deciding whether to restore Rodriguez's gun license.
"We will review all of the facts and make a decision based on them," Solomon said.
He said the department would even interview Rodriguez, if he wanted to talk to police.
According to police reports, Rodriguez picked up a customer at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday Jan. 28 headed to Haverhill on South Broadway in Lawrence. On the way, Rodriguez was waved down by Irene who asked if he could be taken to Lowell Street. Irene told Rodriguez he had $5, and Rodriguez agreed to drive him. Irene sat in the front seat while the other passenger was in the back seat of the Liberty Cab Co. car.
The passenger told police Rodriguez and Irene argued in Spanish and there was a brief struggle between the two.
Irene allegedly threatened Rodriguez with a knife and grabbed an unknown amount of money that had been stored on the visor.
It wasn't the last time a cab driver would use a gun on a robber in Lawrence. A month after the incident with Rodriguez, another driver working for the same company used a handgun to thwart a robbery. Driver Abel Ventura, however, never fired a shot, and no one was injured in the Feb. 25 incident.
The man who robbed Ventura dropped the knife he had used, and gave back the money he had taken from the taxi driver.