Venice couple escapes carjacking suspect

- Geri Authier is still surprised after what happened to him Wednesday night.

Venice police said Authier was loading groceries into his car outside the Venice Publix when Ralph Forte ran up to him.

"He said, 'give me your keys. I have a knife. I'm going to hurt you,'" Authier recalled.

He thought he was being pranked and told Forte his wife had the keys. Forte didn't find that funny, took a bag of groceries and hit Authier over the head.

"I said, 'what did you do that for?' He said, 'I want your keys.' I said, 'I don't have my keys,'" he said.

Forte hit him again until Authier tried to standup for himself.

"I said, 'now it's my turn.' I slung to hit him in the head with it, then the bag broke before it got to him," he said.

Authier then tried climbing into his hatchback to protect himself.

"I thought, 'well, I'll kick him in the groin. That'll slow him down.' Then I looked at my feet. Would you kick anybody with these things?" Authier asked, looking at his shoes. "With my luck, I'd miss him and just make him mad."

Forte eventually ran off. A few minutes later, Authier learned a woman from the 88 Spa Massage was badly injured nearby.

"Somebody told me today I should get a concealed weapon permit to carry a gun. I said I haven't needed one for 74 years. I don't need one now," he said.

Arrest reports show Forte's crime spree started at the massage shop. A witness said a woman ran out of the business screaming and Forte chased her. When she collapsed he ran towards the Publix and Authier.

"If I had thought about the seriousness of it, it would have been different, but I thought, 'oh well,'" said Authier.

A day later, it is really sinking in, especially for his wife, who is just glad to have him home.

"He sounded nonchalant when he called me. I didn't assume it was as bad as it was. He could have easily been killed," she said.

Forte's other victim from the spa is still recovering from the battery. Venice police said she underwent surgery at Sarasota Memorial Hospital and is healing. 

In court, Forte waived his first appearance and was denied bond. He faces a number of charges including attempted murder; robbery with weapon; false imprisonment; car jacking and battery.

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