TAMPA — Sitting in rush hour traffic with a phone to his ear, it was just another day at work for Rod Fisher.
That was until a man in a shirt and tie carrying a gun stumbled out of the car in front of him. Two other people scrambled after the man before ducking back into the gray Mazda and speeding north along E Broadway Avenue.
"Hey, I've got to call you back," Fisher told his father. "I got a chase."
He dialed 911 as he tailed the speeding Mazda.
"I don't know what I've got here," Fisher told the 911 operator. "But it looks like a carjacking."
Fisher, the proprietor of Fisher Bail Bonds, which sits up the street from the Orient Road Jail, was on his way back from a court date last Tuesday when he witnessed the bizarre episode. With instincts honed over three decades of chasing bail jumpers, he knew he had seen some kind of crime.
What he didn't know was that the well-dressed man was the victim of a kidnapping and that he had wrested the gun away from his teenage abductors.
"He's sitting there with a shirt and tie on," Fisher said. "This guy looked like a regular guy."
It all started just before 4 that afternoon, when 17-year-old James Harris and three younger teens somehow got into the parking garage at the Quarter at Ybor, an upscale collection of condominiums at 1800 Palm Ave., according to police.
A surveillance video inside the garage caught images of a few of the teens hiding behind a truck, said the Quarter's general manager, Tim Murphy. They then ran up a ramp to an area not covered by cameras.
The group walked up to Adhemar Perez, 26, who was getting out of his car, according to police. Harris pulled a 9mm pistol and demanded cash and an iPhone from Perez, police said. The group forced Perez into the trunk, then got in and drove to the exit.
An iron gate blocked their path. So they rammed it, police said. The car backed up, then surged forward several times. In the trunk, Perez screamed.
Hearing his cries, the teens let Perez out of the trunk, then forced him into the back seat, police said. They held him at gunpoint as they sped through the gate, then drove east.
About 3 miles away, Perez went for the gun, grabbing it as the car veered toward a vacant lot, police said. He jumped out the door as two of the teens tried to stop him. In the struggle, one of them dropped a cellphone, which Perez picked up. He dialed 911 after the teens sped off.
Behind them, Fisher followed, tailing the speeding Mazda through residential back roads for nearly 20 minutes, he said. He narrated the chase's every turn for dispatchers.
"This is what I do for a living," Fisher said. "It just happened right in front of me."
At one point, the Mazda pulled into a driveway, paused, then headed out again. It whipped around curves and shot down side streets. It traveled the wrong way on Columbus Boulevard, before the teens abandoned the car.
Fisher kept watching two teens who hopped over backyard fences, he said. Soon, a legion of unmarked police cars converged. Officers pounced.
All four teens were taken to a juvenile detention center on charges of carjacking, kidnapping and burglary. The Tampa Bay Times is not naming the younger three due to their ages; two are 15, one is 13. All live north of Ybor City.
Murphy, the general manager at the Quarter at Ybor, said he does not know how the teens gained access to the garage. One possibility is that they followed a car inside, he said. The complex uses private security, but only at night.
"We've never had such a crime in our community," Murphy said.
The management at first believed a drunken driver rammed the gate. It wasn't until hours later that they learned of the kidnapping and carjacking.
"It's a crazy situation," he said. "Hopefully the judge will listen and put these kids away."
Perez could not be reached for comment for this story. Tampa police said it is unclear what the teens' intentions were. After his arrest, police said, Harris wrote an apology letter to Perez.
Times staff writer Tony Marrero contributed to this report. Contact Dan Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.