PINELLAS PARK — Richard H. Levo was frustrated. The 51-year-old machinist lost his job a year ago. He struggled to find work. His mother died in June. His unemployment ran out. He wanted to go to school but couldn't get a loan.
So he dedicated himself to his second job: keeping watch over his neighbors.
It cost him his life early Thursday, police said.
Levo was stabbed and sliced to death by two young males who he confronted after he caught them burglarizing vehicles in his apartment complex's parking lot, Pinellas Park police said.
Bleeding badly, Levo left a trail of blood as he staggered to his second-floor apartment to call 911. It was 1:30 a.m.
"Oh God … oh my God," said Levo, who struggled to breathe while talking to 911 operators. "Get the police and an ambulance here, would you?
"I'm losing lots of blood. Hurry up."
Levo was taken to a hospital and died about 4:35 a.m. Now detectives are looking for the two young males who Levo described with his last words.
Pinellas Park police Capt. Sanfield Forseth said he was surprised that the burglars didn't just run when caught by Levo.
"When you have a property crime that ends in such a violent attack, you wonder," he said, "is the person mentally unstable? Are they on drugs? There are so many different variables. But it is rare. The vast majority end nonviolently."
Levo died fending for his neighbors' cars, yet doesn't own one himself. Friend and neighbor Larry Jack, 61, said he wasn't surprised by Levo's actions.
"He was a guardian angel for so many people who didn't realize it," Jack said.
• • •
Levo lived at Whetstone Apartments, 8400 49th St. N, for 13 years. His apartment sits in the corner facing 49th. Neighbors said when he wasn't sprucing up the building, he was perched on his balcony with a cigarette, keeping an eye on things.
That may be from where he spied the two males stealing car stereos in the parking lot of the sprawling 20-acre complex.
Levo went to confront the thieves. They attacked him, police said, and he suffered multiple cuts and stab wounds to his upper torso and legs. But police said it was not immediately clear if he was stabbed with a knife or another sharp object.
When he spoke to 911, though, Levo said he wasn't attacked with a weapon. He said they used their feet to beat him.
He retreated back to his apartment and called for help. The two males took off running. Police tried to track them with dogs but didn't find them. Officers said they may have fled in a car.
The victim and witnesses gave police these descriptions of the burglars: One was white, about 5 feet 10, possibly with red hair, wearing a black-hooded sweatshirt; the other was black, about 5 feet 6, wearing a black T-shirt over a white T-shirt. Both are believed to be in their late teens to early 20s.
Jack, the victim's friend, surmised that they were teens. Levo would not have confronted adults, he said. Teenagers were another matter. They rubbed Levo's Midwestern upbringing the wrong way. He found them to be disrespectful and destructive.
• • •
Born and raised in Wisconsin, Levo followed his father into the machinist trade. He was a numerical control machine operator, a highly skilled trade, friends said. He programmed the machines that make other machines. He was also a fabulous chef, his family said.
He has two older sisters and was a diehard Green Bay Packers fan. He followed the Tampa Bay Rays, too. He was at his niece's wedding last month, and was set to fly to Denver for a nephew's wedding next week.
He came to Florida because he wanted a change and a warmer climate, said his sister Julia Levo Tunderman, 53. But the economic climate here was so bad that he considered going back.
Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Jamal Thalji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8472.