Monday, November 20, 2017
Public safety

Couple recall fight with gun-wielding purse snatcher

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ST. PETERSBURG — Gary Trangas ran around the car and suddenly realized he was out-matched.

The man dragging his girlfriend held a gun. Trangas, 66, clutched a shovel.

"I wanted to get his a--," he recalled Saturday. "When you got your lady being attacked, you want to do as much as you can to protect her."

That was Friday, in the middle of the day, in front the house on 33rd Avenue N near 33rd Street that Trangas shares with Lagrimas Porquia, 65.

On Saturday, Trangas was home recovering from two gunshot wounds. White bandages covered his arm and chest and a bullet still lodged in the soft tissue of his back. Drops of his blood stained the driveway.

The suspect, who fled without the purse he had been attempting to snatch from Porquia, was still at large. He is described as a black man, about 20 years old, 5 feet 10, and wearing a dark T-shirt covered by a dark flannel shirt. He rode away eastbound on 33rd Avenue on a turquoise beach cruiser-style bike.

Porquia and Trangas were leaving for the eye doctor about 1:20 p.m. when the man rolled up on his bike, dropped the bike, pointed a gun at Porquia and demanded her purse.

The petite part-time housekeeper said no. A tug-of-war began.

"I was begging him: 'I have nothing, please don't do this to me,' " she recalled.

The man pistol-whipped her. She fell to the ground, and he kept pulling on the purse.

Trangas grabbed the shovel from the back of the Kia, ran to the passenger side and raised the tool above his head. He saw the handgun, heard two shots but felt nothing. The man fired two or three more shots, then rode away.

One bullet traveled through his forearm. Another pierced his eyeglasses and their case in his left breast pocket, then ripped into his chest. Surgeons decided that removing the bullet would cause more damage.

A CAT scan confirmed Porquia did not suffer a serious head injury. She and Tragas were released from the hospital Friday evening.

By Saturday, the couple had regained some semblance of normalcy. A cool breeze carried the scent of baking brownies out the front screen door. Porquia's daughter and young granddaughter, who also live at the house but weren't home at the time of the shooting, kept an eye on the oven.

Porquia moved to Florida from her native Philippines in 1999 and is in the process of buying the house. Trangas, a retired handyman, was born and raised in St. Petersburg and still owns his childhood home on 25th Avenue near Ninth Street.

"All the years I've lived here, I've watched things go down the tube," he said.

The couple met on an online dating site three years ago. Since then, Trangas has had both hips replaced and has been diagnosed with lymphoma in his sinuses. The prognosis is still unclear. Still, he calls Porquia "my lifesaver."

They feel relieved to be alive and sad about feeling less safe. They're thinking about getting out of town, at least for a while.

"The world could be ours," Trangas said, "if we go out and grab it."

Tony Marrero can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779. Follow @tmarrerotimes on Twitter.

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