Police: Gym carjacker drove wrong-way on Long Island highway, behind 3 other robberies

BELLMORE, Long Island (WABC) -- Police have arrested the person they say carjacked and robbed a man outside a Crunch Fitness before fleeing police and driving the wrong way on a Long Island highway and ultimately crashing.

Now, they say the same man is responsible for at least three other robberies.

The initial incident happened around 4 a.m. Thursday at the gym location on Center Avenue in Bellmore, where Nassau County police say the victim was sitting in his car drinking coffee when 21-year-old Robert Wong tapped on his window.

That victim, Owen Watstein, of Merrick, spoke to Eyewitness News reporter Kristin Thorne, saying the man first asked if he was an Uber driver and then returned a few minutes later asking to use his phone.

"He asked me, which was crazy to me and a weird question, 'Are you married and do you have kids?'" said Watstein, who told Wong he had a wife and two teenage daughters. "He took a step back. He goes into his sweatshirt, pulls out a gun, 'Get the (expletive) out of the car.'"

Wong took Watstein's phone and wallet and fled in the car.

"I said, 'Dude, take whatever you want,'" Watstein said. "I'm not a religious person, but I was praying to God as I was walking away because that was the scariest part to me. Is he going to shoot me? Because at the end of the day, I know who he is, I'm looking at him, and I'm walking into the gym, and I'm going to call the police officers."

A police officer then spotted the stolen vehicle on Henry Street and attempted to pull the driver over, but the suspect reportedly fled at a high rate of speed.

The office followed at a safe distance, and authorities say Wong got on the Southern State Parkway around exit 25, heading westbound in the eastbound lanes.

He then tried to make a U-turn into the westbound lanes but lost control and crashed into a guardrail. Police say he then attempted to flee the scene on foot and actively resisted officers who were forced to utilize Taser to subdue him.

He was then placed into custody and transported to a local hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

During the attempt to initiate a vehicle stop, an officer sustained a wrist injury while avoiding a collision with the stolen vehicle and was transported to an area hospital for treatment.

During his arrest processing, detectives discovered that Wong was believed to be responsible three other robberies:
--9/2/2019 - Robbery of Dunkin Donuts, 1068 Old Country Road, Plainview
--9/8/2019 - Robbery of 7-Eleven, 156 Covert Avenue, Stewart Manor
--12/21/2019 - Robbery (carjacking) 3265 Railroad Avenue, Wantagh

Wong is charged with reckless endangerment, second-degree robbery, second-degree assault, criminal possession of a weapon, unlawful fleeing of a police officer in a motor vehicle, and resisting arrest. He is also charged with three counts of second-degree robbery for the 2019 robberies.

Another police officer arriving to assist struck a pole at the scene of the stolen vehicle crash and suffered minor injuries.

Watstein said he'll help police and prosecutors with whatever they need to make sure Wong stays behind bars.

"I'm happy he was apprehended," he said. "I'm happy they got him."

Also, Watstein was back at the gym Friday morning.

"I'm not going to let him mentally break me down after what happened," he said.

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