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Undaunted by Savage Holdup, Heart Patient to Resume Daily Treks

January 09, 1986|STEPHANIE CHAVEZ | Times Staff Writer

Leroy Lewis, 61, is waiting a couple of days until "a little more of the soreness goes away" before resuming his daily four-mile walk.

Lewis was back home Wednesday and in a feisty mood after he was robbed and attacked New Year's morning. Two assailants stabbed him 15 times in the back and neck before the little man with the swift punch was brought down.

With white tape still covering a long gash on his neck where his carotid artery was severed, Lewis vowed in a hard voice that the assault that almost killed him will not ruin his morning routine.

'I Will Never Be Intimidated'

"I will walk the same path, the same blocks from this day forward. I will never be intimidated so much that I would have to take to a treadmill for my walk," he said.

"I know people say I should stop walking on the street alone or carry Mace or something like that. But it's not my nature to be afraid. I will meet life and anything it's got head-on."

Lewis was in intensive care for three days at Holy Cross Hospital in Mission Hills. He lost 14 pints of blood and suffered a collapsed lung.

Pointing at his feet, he said: "I just wish I would have been wearing my big hard-toed boots instead of these light-weight sneakers. I would have been able to put up a real fight."

Attackers Escaped

The men who accosted him got away and no arrests have been made, Los Angeles police said.

Lewis, a former landscaper who lives with his wife, Laine, in a modest Van Nuys apartment, walks about four miles every day. It is therapy for him since undergoing triple-bypass heart surgery in 1982 and a single bypass in 1983.

Lewis' doctor, John Wittig, said quick treatment at a trauma center saved his patient's life. Wittig attributed Lewis' "spectacular" recovery to his daily walk.

"He is a strong guy," Wittig said. "I think the amount of physical activity and walking he did after his open heart surgery rejuvenated him."

Normally, a man of his age would be hospitalized three weeks, Wittig said. Lewis was home in one week.

Lewis said he was less than three blocks from home when he was assaulted. He said the attack so surprised and angered him that the only thing he could think to do was fight back.

Described Knifing

Standing up from his armchair, the 5-foot-7, 150-pound man with sparse gray hair demonstrated how one of his assailants came from behind, jerked him into a headlock and thrust a knife into his back two times.

It was 6:30 a.m., Lewis said, and the morning was foggy, cool and still quite dark. The other assailant beat him on the head, Lewis said. Lewis fell into ivy.

"I knew I had been stabbed. You know, it really didn't hurt. I was too mad to feel anything. I thought these goddarned little things were going to rob me."

Lewis said he sprung out of the ivy and punched one of his assailants hard enough to throw the man against a car on the street.

Police said a witness told them Lewis "really put up a fight."

Lewis said he pulled out all the money in his wallet--10 $1 bills--and gave the assailants the cash and his watch. But the men continued to stab and fight with him, he said.

'I Couldn't Fight'

"The thing that bothered me is that I felt my legs go weak. I couldn't fight and I knew I was going down. I felt blood come up in my throat," he said. "And they had to keep kicking me when I was down on all fours."

The assailants ran when a passing motorist stopped and shone his high-beam headlights on the scene, Lewis said.

"I was at the wrong place at the wrong time and tried to fight my way out of it," Lewis said. "I'm no hero or anything, just a stubborn old fighter."

And in a way, he said, he triumphed over the robbers.

"They didn't get the $200 in my back pocket."

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