TAMPA — They prayed for him to come home. They prayed to thank God he was still alive.
They pleaded in Creole, four women cramped inside a tiny living room, until their voices escalated and the sound of their chants drifted outside.
The women were members of Siloe Haitian Baptist Church in Tampa. They were among dozens who prayed for Annuel Delicieux, the church's Sunday school teacher, after he was shot in the chest early Tuesday.
"Thank God he is still alive," said Elaie Courtoirs, one of the women.
Delicieux, a married father of three, has been a taxi driver in Tampa for nine years.
On Tuesday, he was dropping off a passenger just before 3 a.m. along a row of duplexes on W Chestnut Street when a man, armed with a shotgun, approached the yellow Crown Victoria and demanded Delicieux hand over money.
Delicieux, 42, tossed money out the window. As he drove away, the man shot him in the chest, Tampa police said.
Disoriented and slipping out of consciousness, Delicieux continued to drive down Chestnut Street with the passenger still in the back seat and crashed into a patrol car near N Willow Avenue, police said.
When the officer realized Delicieux had been shot, he called for an ambulance.
Delicieux was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he underwent surgery Tuesday.
Steven Delicieux, Annuel's nephew, said he drove his aunt to the hospital about 6 a.m. after hearing his uncle was there.
Thoughts of a car accident or a health problem crossed Steven's mind.
But never a gunshot wound.
When they arrived, Delicieux told them what happened moments before he was whisked away into surgery. He was in stable condition late Tuesday.
Since then, the family has reached out to their church for support. Church members visited the hospital. Others prayed at Delicieux's apartment.
Delicieux began attending Siloe Haitian Baptist Church about 20 years ago. Besides teaching Sunday school, he also plays the guitar during service.
Delicieux also is among 250 taxi drivers who are on the road working for the Yellow Cab of Tampa on any given day. In the last several years, none of the company's taxi drivers has been hurt on the job, said the company's president Louis Minardi.
Until Tuesday's robbery.
Delicieux's coworkers visited him at the hospital Tuesday and started a fund that will go toward his wife and children.
"He's a very nice guy," Minardi said. "Never had any trouble with him."
The shooting remains under investigation, with the gunman at large.
The passenger in the back seat, whom police have not identified, was not a suspect, police said. During the robbery, he tried to escape, but couldn't.
Delicieux will need more surgeries in the future, his family said.
Until then, the prayers will continue.
"We can't afford to lose him," Steven said. "We're just happy he's alive."
Staff researcher John Martin contributed to this report.