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Video of violent mugging near MacDill Air Force Base brings offers of help

TAMPA — The plight of an Army sergeant viciously beaten over a wallet and cell phone is eliciting offers to help as a surveillance video of the mugging spreads nationally.

Sgt. Johnny Aparicio, 24, was new to town. Less than a month ago, he was assigned to the U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

Early Sunday morning, Aparicio's car broke down. As he walked a few miles north of the base, trailing three others also walking on the same street, one asked him for a dollar. And then one of the men decked him.

The punch knocked Aparicio to the ground. The three attackers pummeled and kicked him. A fourth man ran up and joined the attack. Just as Aparicio was starting to sit up, one kicked him violently in the face.

All four ran away. Aparicio managed to get up and go to a home to call for help.

A surveillance camera caught the mugging. In the three days since police publicly released it, the video has appeared nationally on news and social sites. People called with offers of help.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Tampa Police Department said, rewards totalling $16,250 have been pledged.

"I think the outpouring of support shows how many good people there are out there," said Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis. "It is a heart-warming reminder that there's some positive and good even in a bad situation."

The rewards for catching the attackers include $10,000 from the Winters & Yonker law firm, $5,000 from the Without Walls International Church, $1,000 from an unnamed person in Virginia and $250 from an unnamed person in New Jersey.

Lawyer Bill Winters said his firm has received around 20 calls and emails from people wanting to help.

"I don't know the sergeant's story, but in today's Army everyone gets deployed," he said. "They have or will risk their lives for our country. You have to be a country who deserves these guys."

The attack happened around 3:30 a.m. Sunday as Aparicio was walking on Iowa Avenue. The attackers rifled through his pockets and took his cell phone and wallet before running away south on Renellie Drive.

Aparicio suffered facial injuries and was hospitalized. Wednesday, police said he had been released.

Mark Blackington, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, said Aparicio has expressed a desire for privacy as he heals from the injuries.

"We wish for a speedy recovery and a return to his duties," Blackington said.

Anyone with information on the crime was asked to call the Tampa Police Department at (813) 231-6130.

Video of violent mugging near MacDill Air Force Base brings offers of help 05/16/12 [Last modified: Thursday, May 17, 2012 8:25am]
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