Suspect caught in University City robbery of former City Councilman


City News Service

A man wanted in connection with a violent home invasion robbery at the University City home of Metropolitan Transit System Board Chairman and former San Diego City Councilman Harry Mathis was in custody today after being injured in a high-speed chase in Arizona.

Harvey Henry Duson, 45, wrecked his car while being pursued by Arizona authorities Wednesday and was taken to a Las Vegas hospital, KSWB reported.

Duson is believed to be one of three men who assaulted, threatened and robbed Mathis, his wife and a neighbor at the couple’s Sandburg Avenue house on Jan. 11, said San Diego police Capt. Terry McManus.

Duson eluded arrest in San Diego Tuesday afternoon after police got word that his car had broken down on Interstate 8 in La Mesa.

Officers surrounded the disabled Pontiac Grand Prix near Severin Drive and blocked off all but one eastbound lane in the area, unsure if Duson remained in the sedan, which had heavily tinted windows.

Rush-hour traffic slowed to a crawl for miles west of the stalemate for about two hours, until officers smashed the windows of the vehicle and pried open its trunk, finding nobody inside.

One of the bandits confronted the 78-year-old former city councilman about 9 p.m. on Jan. 11, moments after he returned home from an outing, police said.

The intruder, who was armed with a gun, immediately demanded cash from Mathis. The victim, who has a concealed-firearm permit, responded by pulling his own pistol and firing two shots at the robber, missing him. The two men then got into a struggle over Mathis’ gun, which the assailant eventually wrested away and used to beat the victim over the head.

A passing neighbor who heard the gunshots went to check on the Mathises and was confronted by one of the masked men and dragged inside the house. Inside, meanwhile, one of the bandits had forced Mathis’ 77-year-old wife at knifepoint to open a safe before forcing her into a bathroom.

The robbers -- two of whom were armed with handguns -- then ordered Mathis to open a still-locked compartment in the safe and give them money. The victim complied, but there was no money inside the lockbox.

The intruders then ordered Mathis and the neighbor into the bathroom where the woman already was being held, and told the three to remain there or the the house would be burned down.

After a few moments, the victims left the bathroom and discovered that two fires had been set in the residence. Firefighters arrived a short time later and were quickly able to douse the blazes, one of which damaged a car parked in the garage.

Medics took Mathis to a hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries to his head and face. His wife and neighbor were unhurt.

Anyone with information on the identity of the other two suspects in the robbery is asked to call San Diego County Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477. Tipsters may remain anonymous and could be eligible for a $1,000 reward.