(Globe photo by John Guilfoil)
A parking valet who armed himself with an umbrella was credited today with helping save a grandmother as she was being attacked in downtown Boston by a knife-wielding career criminal intent on being sent back to prison where he has spent half his life.
Felix Vega was on duty at the 45 Province street condominium Monday night when 61-year-old Barbara Pero exited the exclusive condo and got into her 2007 Nissan, parked on an apron in front of the downtown building.
Suddenly, Richard E. Morse allegedly forced his way into the car and tried to push Pero into the front passenger seat while waving a knife at her and threatening to kill her, according to a Boston police report filed in Boston Municipal Court and Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Gregory Henning.
In an interview at her Auburn home outside Worcester today, Pero described the terrifying next moments.
“It just was pure instinct. It all happened so quick. He had the knife and he jabbed me here and there, and I just went after his eyes,’’ Pero said. “I just told him to take my car take whatever, just leave me alone don’t hurt me. He let me get out of the car and he shut the door…and when I got out I started screaming and screaming and screaming.’’
Pero’s screams drew Vega’s attention. The 23-year-old ran into the parking manager’s office and grabbed the only self-defense item available, a blue wood-handled umbrella and began beating on Morse, who was still in the car, according to record and Vega supervisor.
Pero’s fierce opposition and Vega’s relentless attack led Morse to grab Pero’s purse, bolt out of the car, and start running through downtown alleyways – followed by Vega. Another civilian notified Boston police Officer Craig D. Jones, who was working a paid detail near the intersections of Congress and State streets, about the purse snatching.
Morse suddenly emerged from Quaker Lane in front of Jones, who spotted both the knife in Morse’s right hand the strap of a woman’s purse sticking out of Morse’s sweatshirt. Jones said today that he began unholstering his service weapon as he ordered Morse to drop the knife. Vega was about 20 feet behind Morse, having followed him on foot.
Jones said the 48-year-old Morse surrendered without a major struggle. “He never made a real strong attempt to get away,’’ Jones said in a telephone interview today. “He said he didn’t care, he just wanted to go back to jail. He couldn’t make it on the outside.’’
In a Globe interview today at her Worcester-area home, Pero said she is relieved that Morse is off the streets – and grateful that she survived the violent encounter relatively unscathed.
“I’m still very shaky, very, very shaky, but I feel very lucky,’’ said Pero, who had a cut on one finger suffered when Morse lashed out at her with the knife. “And I’m so thankful that they got him so somebody else won’t experience the same thing I experienced. I’m just happy it’s over. ‘’
Morse was ordered held on $150,000 cash bail after Henning told Judge Edward Redd that Morse has previous convictions for mayhem – a serious, violent crime – and armed robbery. According to the police report, he was also convicted in Bristol County of armed carjacking.
Morse pleaded not guilty to the seven charges filed against him today. He listed his address as the Pine Street Inn in Boston in court records. This Febuary, he was released from the Massachusetts Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center in Bridgewater, a facility run by the Department of Correction but which also accepts civilly committed patients.
Boston attorney Edward Principe, who represented Morse just for today’s arraignment, said that Morse suffered serious head trauma about 20 years ago, which has affected his cognitive ability.
Principe also said that Morse today denies saying he wanted to go back to prison. According to an official who has seen Morse’s entire criminal history, he has spent 24 of his 42 years behind bars.
Vega has worked for LAZ Parking, which has the parking contract at the condo, for about three months, said Steven Larkin, his supervisor. Vega could not be reached for comment today.
Vega said in a telephone interview this afternoon that he is in Florida for training as a ground operations worker for Jet Blue airline, not for the Transportation Security Administration as a coworker had said.
"It was a good thing that I helped the lady out,'' said Vega, who is a Chelsea resident and hopes one day to become a police officer. "Luckily, I stopped him that one time from doing what he was trying to do. I would do it all over again if I could.''
Vega said that as he pursued Morse down Pi Alley, he whacked Morse in the back with the umbrella, hoping to make him at least drop Pero's purse.
Morse, he said, attacked him with the knife, slashing a hole into his work shirt. Vega, who has a 17-month old daughter with his high school sweetheart, continued to pursue Morse who tried unsuccessfully steal another car.
Vega was still following Morse -- armed only with the umbrella -- when Officer Jones came onto the scene, brought there by Jay King, a 50-year-old Dorchester resident who saw Morse and Vega pass him by while he was standing in Pi Alley.
"When someone needs help, you help them,'' said King, a laid off excavation company worker, said in a telephone interview.
Jones, the police officer, applauded Vega for his unselfish actions. “I think the valet did a really great job,’’ he said. “He went above and beyond for a valet. A lot of people don’t want to get involved in something like that.’’
Pero said she spends every Monday caring for twin grandchildren, something she has done every week for nearly the past five years.
“I had a delightful day with them and it just all happened so quickly,’’ Pero said today. “I definitely will be there next Monday. For those kids I will be there, but I certainly have a different feeling about it, too.’’
On the beat
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