Limo Carjacking Leaves Driver Dead

LCT Staff
Posted on August 4, 2003

HACIENDA HEIGHTS, Calif. – A chauffeur was killed in the line of duty when a man carjacked his limousine in this Los Angeles suburb slightly before midnight Tuesday, July 29.

The chauffeur was 70-year-old Robert “Bob” Gooch of Montclair, Calif., a full-time employee of City of Industry, Calif.-based Lincoln Limousine for three years. According to the company’s owner, Gerardo Ortiz, Gooch was on his way back from a birthday outing when he stopped for gas.

A man carrying a squeegee approached him and asked if he could clean the windows of the limo but then proceeded to jump in the car and drive away. Ortiz believes the keys had been left in the car.

Gooch tried to stop the perpetrator from taking the limousine, or he got caught on something, and was dragged with the car for about 40 feet.

Then, the carjacker hit a pole, put the white, 180-inch stretch in reverse and backed over Gooch twice, only to abandon the limousine three miles away.

Police were continuing to search for the suspect.

Gooch was taken to a local hospital but later died from the injuries he sustained.

“My daughter looked at me and said, ‘Dad, Bob gave his life for our business,’” Ortiz said. “That hurts. It makes me feel horrible. My business isn’t worth that much. But it is now, isn’t it?

“In this industry, you start out thinking your car is so special and then you realize it’s just a tool,” he continued. “The car is not as important as a chauffeur. The chauffeur is the one that does the wheels right.”

And there was no question in Ortiz’s mind about whether Gooch, a Korean War veteran, did just that.

“He was basically everything that anybody would like in a chauffeur,” the 8-car operator explained. “Bob was a man of conviction, a man of integrity. He’d go out of his way to take care of people; he’d try to make the most of their event. He always was concerned with the client. As far as I’m concerned, what else can you ask for?”

The accident has led other chauffeurs at Lincoln Limousine to say they will do things differently.

“If somebody approaches me, I’m going to ask them to step away because I don’t want the same thing to happen to me,” said Daniel Gutierrez, Gooch’s co-worker.

He also advised chauffeurs to be more aware of their surroundings and to avoid stopping at a gas station late at night. “Put the keys in your pocket,” added Ortiz, “or let the car go; don’t even try to save it.”

Ortiz has set up a memorial fund benefiting Gooch’s wife of 40 years and two sons. Gooch had no life insurance.

Donations are welcome: Send checks payable to Robert Gooch Memorial Fund to Lincoln Limousine, Box 5302, Diamond Bar, Calif. 91765-5302.

--Rebecca Christiansen

LCT Staff LCT Staff
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