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Plainview man arrested in carjacking at Crunch Fitness in Bellmore, cops say

Owen Watstein, 50, of Merrick, said he was sitting in his BMW drinking coffee before heading into the gym to work out when a man knocked on his window and asked if he was an Uber driver. The man left, but Watstein said he returned minutes later, asked for Watstein’s phone and then forced him out of his car at gunpoint. (Credit: News 12 Long Island)

A Plainview man was arraigned on multiple charges Friday, a day after authorities said he stole a car at gunpoint, then crashed during a police chase on the Southern State Parkway.

Robert Wong, 21, was held on a bail of $200,000 bond or $100,000 cash after his arraignment in First District Court in Hempstead, according to online court records.

Wong stole the car at gunpoint Thursday morning, then crashed into a guardrail during the police chase before officers subdued him with a Taser stun gun, according to a Nassau police spokesman.

Wong had allegedly approached a vehicle in a Crunch Fitness parking lot on Centre Avenue in Bellmore at about 4 a.m. Thursday. He asked whether the occupant was his Uber driver, displayed a handgun, and then demanded the occupant surrender the car, according to Officer Eric Evensen, whose news release provided this account.

The vehicle belonged to Merrick financial adviser Owen Watstein, 50, who said he was sitting in his BMW drinking coffee before heading into the gym to work out. 

Watstein said he told the assailant, who was wearing black nail polish, that he wasn't his Uber driver after he knocked on the window. The man left, but Watstein said he returned minutes later, asked for Watstein’s phone and then forced him out of his car at gunpoint. Watstein called 911 from the gym.

Evensen said Wong fled in the car northbound on Centre Avenue, and, once spotted by police officers, ignored their attempt to pull over the car and sped away onto the Southern State, going westbound in the eastbound lanes. He made a U-turn, tried to exit the parkway, and as he lost control of the vehicle, crashed into the guardrail. That’s when he tried to flee, and the officers zapped him with the Taser because he was “actively resisting officers," Evensen said.

Wong was treated at the hospital for minor injuries. One of the officers hurt his wrist while avoiding a collision with the stolen vehicle and was treated for a minor wrist injury, Evensen said.

During arrest processing, Evensen said, detectives discovered that Wong was responsible for robberies on Sept. 2 at the Dunkin' doughnut store on Old Country Road in Plainview and on Sept. 8 at the 7-Eleven on Covert Avenue in Stewart Manor, and for a carjacking on Dec. 21 on Railroad Avenue in Wantagh. The news release did not say how detectives made the discovery or provide the evidence linking him to those crimes, for which he is being charged with three counts of second-degree robbery.

For Thursday’s events, charges against Wong include first-degree reckless endangerment, second-degree assault, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, third-degree unlawful fleeing of a police officer in a motor vehicle and resisting arrest.

Wong was in police lockup Friday and couldn’t be reached for comment, nor could an attorney for him be located. 

Speaking later Thursday, Watstein said his BMW was damaged but said the incident could have ended far worse for him.

“I’m shaken up about it,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I think I’m pretty relaxed because nothing happened to me.”

With Matthew Chayes

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