A Lebanon man has been charged after allegedly robbing a man at gunpoint, stealing a car, and leading police on a high-speed chase through the city.
Lebanon County District Attorney Pier Hess Graf released details Thursday evening, Nov. 9, about the armed robbery and subsequent car theft and pursuit through the city that took place on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
The suspect, 32-year-old Cesar Wilkins Romero Colon of Lebanon, was arrested and charged, according to a press release from the DA’s office. An additional release Thursday from Lebanon city police added context to the incident.
Officers were dispatched around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday to the 1100 block of Brandywine Street for a report of gunshots, according to the release from police. There, Lebanon police say they were quickly able to identify Romero Colon as the suspect who fired the shots.
Police said that in an interview, the apparent victim informed officers that he had been told by the suspect to empty his pockets while being shown a black handgun. The victim then fled and reported hearing a gunshot as he ran from the suspect, who fled the scene on a bicycle.
Lebanon police said that, by that point, they had identified Romero Colon based on witness interviews as well as prior contacts. Around 3 p.m., officers were called to the 500 block of North 2nd Street for a report of a motor vehicle theft. At the scene, police interviewed a victim whose 2005 Dodge Caravan had been commandeered by the suspect after the vehicle was left unattended.
The owner of the van told police that Romero Colon had said, “Don’t get too close or I will shoot you,” before fleeing in the vehicle.
Moments later, city police said, the South Lebanon Police Department located the stolen vehicle in the area of 3rd Avenue and East Cumberland Street.
Romero Colon fled from police towards South Lebanon Township, driving the wrong way down Route 422 and weaving in and out of traffic, according to the police narrative. Officers were in pursuit and attempted to take Colon into custody, the release states.
Before that could happen, the DA’s office says that Romero Colon drove into the intersection at Narrows Drive and Route 422 in South Lebanon Township, where he crashed his vehicle into another car. The other driver sustained a serious injury, according to the release, but is expected to survive. (Some footage of the aftermath at the scene was published earlier this week by WGAL-8.)
Romero Colon lost control of the stolen vehicle, which rolled and skidded before coming to rest in a field adjacent to the oncoming lane of traffic, according to the DA’s release.
Still, Romero Colon did not give himself up, according to the DA’s office. He proceeded to flee through the field and back onto Route 422, where he attempted to carjack another vehicle.
The DA’s office said that Lebanon and South Lebanon police pursued Romero Colon in “a valiant effort to stop the ongoing and escalating danger.” A city police officer by that time had caught up to the suspect and commanded him to surrender, but Romero Colon instead turned toward the officer and moved toward the officer’s vehicle, according to the release.
The DA’s release notes that Romero Colon still showed a firearm as he approached the police vehicle’s open driver’s side door and attempted to overtake the officer.
The officer safely maneuvered the car away from Romero Colon, according to the release. At the same time, South Lebanon police arrived at the scene, and during Romero Colon’s struggle with the Lebanon officer, a South Lebanon officer fired two gunshots in Romero Colon’s direction.
The release says that neither shot struck or injured Romero Colon, who nonetheless submitted to police thereafter and was taken into custody.
A city release adds further detail: “As the Lebanon City Police Officer pulled the police cruiser to safety, the suspect rolled on to the roadway. As the suspect sat up on the roadway, he observed additional police vehicles and officers arriving. The suspect dropped his firearm and surrendered to police. Two Lebanon City Police Officers took the suspect into custody without further incident.”
The DA’s release states that the gun in Romero Colon’s possession was a stolen 9mm handgun “loaded with a round chambered and ready to fire.”
According to court records, Romero Colon now faces nine felony charges, including multiple counts of felony armed robbery and aggravated assault, as well as charges related to theft, firearm possession, and fleeing police.
Romero Colon was arraigned Thursday in front of Magisterial District Judge Anthony Verna, who set bail at $1 million. Romero Colon remains in custody at Lebanon County Correctional Facility, where he awaits a preliminary hearing currently scheduled for 8 a.m. Nov. 16 in front of Magisterial District Judge Maria Dissinger.
In a statement, Hess Graf said that Romero Colon risked the lives of multiple people in the county.
“He committed crime after crime with a stolen handgun; he valued no life besides his own,” said Hess Graf. “We remain thankful today that every officer involved survived this incident and we continue to pray for the recovery of the victim injured during Colon’s car crash.”
Hess Graf said that multiple lessons could be taken from the incident.
“This spree of violent and senseless behavior shows lessons to us all: our police must remain vigilant of the grave risks their job poses every day and with every incident; our citizens can rest assured their officers and their District Attorney takes crimes committed with guns and criminal activity seriously; and our criminals have a direct example of the dire consequences they face when brought to justice in Lebanon County.”
Hess Graf said she would be handling Romero Colon’s charges and trial personally.
“We are not Philadelphia or Chicago — if you attack our residents, if you attack our police, we will prevail,” she said.
Anyone with information on this incident should contact the Lebanon County Detective Bureau at (717) 274-2801 or the Lebanon City Police Department at (717) 272-6611.
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