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Armed citizen rescues professional football star from carjackers

Originally ran here as:
August 15, 2001

Gun put to head,
but rescued by
armed citizen.

ALBANY - The buzzwords around Dave Thomas this training camp are about battles and survival and threats to his job. As usual, the veteran cornerback has approached what could be an uncomfortable situation with his standard professional demeanor.

What transpired this off-season, though, tested Thomas more forcefully than any challenge that prize rookie Will Allen can make to his starting job. A harrowing incident barely two weeks before the start of camp left Thomas on his knees, the barrel of a gun imprinting the back of his head, wondering if his life was about to end in a Miami parking lot.

"You try to take all the precautions, you hang around the right people, you go to places you know it's not a trouble-making type of atmosphere, no matter what, if somebody wants to target you they will," Thomas said yesterday, speaking publicly about the frightening altercation for the first time.

Seated on a steep flight of stairs leading down to the Giants locker room, Thomas following the afternoon workout recounted an ordeal that he admits shook him badly. He resides in downtown Miami and had just finished eating at an upscale restaurant not far from his home. As he approached his 2002 Ford Escalade, Thomas, who stands 6-foot-3, weighs 218 pounds and has the build of a cruiserweight champion, was suddenly approached by two young men wearing masks.

"Hey man, I want your car," is what Thomas recalls one of the men saying.

"I was outnumbered - I was like, hey, it's not that important so I basically cooperated," Thomas said. "They were big guys. Both of 'em had a piece."

Instructed to get to his knees, Thomas tossed the keys to the luxury SUV to one of the gunmen and then, on the ground, prayed that would satisfy his assailants.

"To be honest with you, I was scared, I didn't know what was going to go on after I gave them my keys," he said. "With anybody, you're always concerned you give 'em what they want well, do they want more? Are they scared you might identify them?"

As the two thugs were entering Thomas' truck, shots rang out. The manager of the restaurant, a casual acquaintance of Thomas, witnessed what was going down and intervened.

"He busted a couple of rounds off, they jumped into their car with my keys," Thomas said. "I said OK, I hear gunshots, let me hit the ground."

No criminal report was made, as the owner of the restaurant did not want negative publicity. Thomas theorizes that the expensive rims on the tires of his truck might have made him a target. He called roadside assistance, had duplicate keys made and still has the truck.

Thomas wants to keep the incident quiet. He might stave off Allen's challenge or he may not and drop into a reserve role. Either way, Thomas knows he's been through an ordeal.

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