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Teen Shoots Up Mass. Gay Bar, Police Say

February 2, 2006

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (AP) _ A teenager armed with a hatchet and handgun opened fire inside a gay bar early Thursday, wounding at least three people in what police are investigating as a hate crime.

A bartender at Puzzles Lounge told The Associated Press that the young man, dressed all in black, ordered a drink and asked if Puzzles was a gay bar. He finished his drink shortly after midnight, ordered another, then started attacking people, the bartender said. Three were hospitalized Thursday.

Police were searching for 18-year-old Jacob D. Robida, Police Capt. Richard Spirlet said. An arrest warrant sought to charge Robida with assault, attempted murder and civil-rights violations.

According to a court filing attached to the warrant, a woman in the bar recognized had recognized Robida as a current or former student at New Bedford High School. Acting Police Chief David Provencher said Robida had graduated in 2001 from the city’s Junior Police Academy, a ``boot camp″ that teaches discipline to 12- to 14-year-olds.

Early Thursday, the teenager was armed with a handgun and ``some sort of cutting instrument″ went he walked into Puzzles Lounge Spirlet said.

The bartender said the attacker was swinging a hatchet.

After finishing his drink, the man walked to the back of the bar where two men were playing pool, shoved one to the ground, then pulled a hatchet from his sweat shirt and began swinging at the man’s head, cutting him, the bartender said.

Other patrons tackled the man, sending the hatchet sliding across the floor, the bartender said. That’s when the man pulled out a handgun, he said. The gunman shot both pool players and also fired at a patron who was leaving the bathroom, hitting him in the chest.

``He was shooting at everyone,″ said the bartender, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Phillip, because of concerns about his safety.

The attacker also shoved him before running out, Phillip said. He said police found the hatchet and a machete in the bar.

Puzzles is popular with the local gay community and is listed on Web sites offering resources to gays and lesbians.

New Bedford, a city of 94,000 residents, is 50 miles south of Boston.

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