Former councilman is recovering after home invasion - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Former councilman is recovering after home invasion

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UNIVERSITY CITY (CBS 8) -  A former San Diego City Council-member is recovering Thursday night from injuries he suffered during a home invasion robbery in University City.  78-year old Harry Mathis was attacked Wednesday night as he arrived at his home in the 56-hundred block of Sandburg Avenue.  18 hours after being pistol whipped in his garage during a Wednesday night robbery, he was back at home.

During his seven year City Council term, he was known as a no-nonsense public crusader. Late Wednesday night he found himself on the defensive again protecting his property and his family.

The 79-year old, who is now chairman of the Metropolitan Transit System Board, fired two shots at a masked man who demanded money from him during a confrontation at his home around 9:15 pm late Wednesday night.  Authorities say the pair battled over the gun and Mathis was hit several times on the head. Moments later, the victim learned there were two other suspects hiding in the house, holding his wife and a neighbor hostage.

Investigators say as the trio of suspects left the crime scene back through the garage, they lit Mathis' Nissan Altima on fire, which was quickly put out before it could spread to another vehicle or the structure itself.

Police have not yet revealed if anything was taken from the home, which was also burglarized back in December and November, perhaps by the same suspects. 

While Mathis was hospitalized, his wife and the neighbor, were not hurt. His friends say they expect the former Navy Captain, nuclear attack submarine Commander and avid pilot, to be serving the San Diego community once again in short order. 

Authorities say it appears the shots that Harry Mathis fired did not strike the suspect.  Crime lab technicians are hoping evidence they gathered today will bring the burglars to justice.

THIS IS A STORY UPDATE. For an earlier version, read below.

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Police Thursday investigated a home-invasion robbery in University City in which a former San Diego city councilman was pistol-whipped after harmlessly firing a handgun at one of three assailants.

The robbery in the 5600 block of Sanburg Avenue was reported about 9:15 p.m. Wednesday, said San Diego police Lt. David Rohowits.

Neighbors identified the victim as former San Diego city councilman and current Metropolitan Transit System Board chairman Harry Mathis, KFMB reported. Police did not immediately confirm the victim's identity but said a 78-year-old man returned home and parked his vehicle inside his garage, then got out and was confronted by one of the three men.

The robber was armed with a handgun and demanded cash from the victim, who was carrying a concealed handgun and fired off two shots, Rohowits said in a statement. Neither shot struck the suspect.

The gunman wrestled control of the victim's handgun and used it to pistol-whip him in the head, then ordered him inside the house, Rohowits said. In the house, the victim's wife and a neighbor were being held by two masked men

The three suspects demanded cash from all three victims, then locked them in a bathroom and searched inside the house for money, Rohowits said.

How much they stole was not immediately clear.

"That will be determined after more thorough interviews are conducted with the victims," Rohowits said.

As the robbers fled, they set fire to the victim's car inside the garage. The fire was quickly put out, Rohowits said.

The victim was taken to a hospital for a head injury he suffered when he was pistol-whipped. His wife and neighbor were uninjured, Rohowits said.

Detailed descriptions of the suspects were not immediately released.

Anyone with information about the home invasion was urged to call SDPD's Robbery Unit at (619) 531-2299.

THIS IS A STORY UPDATE. For an earlier version, read below.

UNIVERSITY CITY (CBS 8) - Police and firefighters are investigating a home invasion robbery at the home of a former San Diego city councilman, which ended with shots fired and a car in flames.

The home invasion robbery was reported around 9:15 Wednesday night in the 5600-block of Sandburg Ave. A man in his 70's told police that he pulled into his garage and didn't close the automatic door behind him, and then was accosted by a robber in a ski mask.

Neighbors identify the victims as former San Diego City Councilman Harry Mathis, his wife, and a friend.

During the scuffle, the victim fired two shots from a gun he is reportedly licensed to carry, but did not hit the attacker with any bullets. The masked man managed to get the gun away from the victim and pistol-whipped the man with it.

The three victims were then ordered into a bathroom inside the home, while a trio of robbers ran-sacked the home.

Investigators say the three masked men then threatened the victims, saying they would burn down the home if they tried to stop the robbers. Police say the group then set the victim's Nissan Ultima on fire inside the garage and drove away. The suspects were last seen on SR-52 in a white Jeep Cherokee.

One victim was transported to the hospital with unknown injuries.

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