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Bystanders help stop attack

Parking valet and victim strike back

“I had to do something,’’ said Barbara Pero. “I had to do something,’’ said Barbara Pero. (John M. Guilfoil)
By John R. Ellement and John M. Guilfoil
Globe Staff | Globe Correspondent / November 4, 2009

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Barbara Pero’s heart was light as she left the downtown Boston condo Monday night where her twin grandchildren live. Suddenly, she thought her life was about to end at the hands of a man with a knife.

“When he cut me with the knife, that’s when I retaliated and went after him,’’ Pero, 61, said yesterday. “I had to do something. . . . I thought to myself, ‘I’m never going to go back home. I’m never going to see my grandchildren again.’ ’’

Speaking outside her Auburn home, Pero described the alleged attack by Richard E. Morse that ended after Pero’s fierce counterattack - and the intervention of a parking valet armed only with an umbrella and of a Dorchester man who steered po lice into the path of the fleeing career criminal.

Pero was treated at the scene for slight cuts to her hands.

“It was like a little chain,’’ Felix Vega, the parking valet said in a telephone interview yesterday. “I helped out the lady. Jay King [the second civilian] saw that I was in a situation where I needed help. And the officers helped me. It was a good arrest.’’

King, 50, who is a laid-off excavation worker, said in a telephone interview that he felt he had no choice. “When someone needs help, you help them,’’ he said.

Boston police officer Craig D. Jones, who arrested Morse at gunpoint, said, “Basically, we all converged.’’

Morse, 48, reportedly told Jones, who apprehended him as he emerged from Quaker Lane allegedly still carrying Pero’s purse and a knife, that he was glad to be arrested because it meant he will be back behind prison bars.

“He never made a real strong attempt to get away,’’ Jones said. “He said he didn’t care, he just wanted to go back to jail. He couldn’t make it on the outside.’’

Morse was ordered held on $150,000 cash bail after Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Gregory Henning told Judge Edward Redd that Morse has previous convictions for mayhem - a serious, violent crime - and armed robbery in Bristol and Plymouth counties, according to court records and authorities.

Morse pleaded not guilty to the seven charges filed against him, which included kidnapping and armed robbery. He listed his address as the Pine Street Inn in Boston in court records. Barbara Trevisan, a Pine Street Inn spokeswoman, said last night that she could not confirm if Morse was a resident there.

Boston attorney Edward Principe, who represented Morse for yesterday’s arraignment, said his client suffered serious head trauma about 20 years ago, which has affected his cognitive ability.

Principe also said that Morse yesterday denied saying he wanted to go back to prison. According to an official who has seen Morse’s entire criminal history, but requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter, Morse has spent 24 years behind bars.

The chain of events began around 7:30 p.m. Monday as Pero was leaving a luxury condominium complex on Province Street, where she spent the day with her grandchildren, something she has done every Monday for years.

Vega had retrieved Pero’s 2007 Nissan, handed her the keys, and then saw a man walk calmly past him and push his way into Pero’s car. Vega initially thought Morse was an acquaintance of Pero’s. But then the woman began screaming, he said.

Pero said it was a moment of terror. “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.’’

Vega said he ran back to the parking office and grabbed a blue umbrella, the only item that could serve as a weapon, and began hitting the car and Morse.

With Pero now outside the car, Morse grabbed her purse, jumped out of the car, and fled on foot pursued by Vega. Morse passed King, who noticed he was holding a knife and a woman’s purse - and that Vega was chasing him, King said.

Both men said that as Morse neared Washington Street, Vega began hitting Morse on the back - and Morse then turned the knife on Vega. “He pulls out the knife, and he swings the knife at me,’’ said Vega, who was not hurt.

Morse, he said, jumped into an idling car but could not put it into drive as Vega stood next to it, hitting the window in hopes of breaking it. Morse jumped out.

King then circled around and alerted Jones, who was working a paid detail at Congress and State streets.

“Luckily, I stopped him that one time from doing what he was trying to do,’’ said Vega. “I would do it all over again if I could.’’

Pero said she plans to be with her grandchildren as usual on Monday.

“I’m still very shaky, very, very shaky, but I feel very lucky,’’ Pero said.