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Monday, Nov 24, 2014
Crime & Courts

Iraq war veteran’s custom motorcycle stolen in Tampa


Published:   |   Updated: June 27, 2014 at 08:04 AM

He never could abandon his motorcycle.

Even when things got tight, 27-year-old Paul Rivera couldn’t let it go. For the Army veteran who served in Iraq and Egypt, the 2005 Honda CBR600RR motorcycle was virtually his only possession.

But last week, someone stole the motorcycle from the parking lot of his apartment complex on Bonita Vista Way in Tampa.

“It’s hard to believe,” Rivera said. “People don’t think how they hurt people or affect people when they do things like this.”

The theft happened late in the day June 18. Rivera had recently finished overhauling the motorcycle, spending about $5,000 to get it running just right. He had been riding near Hillsborough Avenue when he noticed a black four-door sedan behind him with three young men obviously looking at the motorcycle, he said.

He arrived at his apartment just before 9 p.m. About two hours later, he looked out a window and the motorcycle was gone. A witness at the apartment complex saw a black four-door sedan about 9:30 p.m. A surveillance video at the apartment complex also shows the vehicle, Rivera said.

“I just got it up and running,” said Rivera, who has no insurance for the motorcycle. “As soon as I got it running, it got stolen.”

Rivera, who was a gunner in the Army, said he bought the bike in 2011 for $5,000 from a Black Hawk helicopter pilot.

In the military, many people don’t own much because they are constantly moving, he said. The motorcycle was special because it was one of the few things he owned, he said.

Rivera completed his time with the military in late 2011. He had post-traumatic stress disorder from serving in Iraq, he said. An injury while serving in Egypt left him partially blind in his left eye, he said.

While living in Auburndale, he didn’t receive the Veterans Affairs disability and Social Security checks he was supposed to for a stretch in 2013 and was forced to stay with friends and became temporarily homeless, he said.

Even then, he said, he was determined not to sell the motorcycle.

“I never had intentions of getting rid of that bike,” Rivera said. “It was all I had left. It was the only thing that belonged to me.”

Rivera now lives with his 2-year-old daughter in Tampa, where he has easy access to the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital. He has a car, but he misses his motorcycle.

“I would love to have it back,” he said. “I still have the keys and the title. It still belongs to me.”

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the case.

The motorcycle is orange and white with stripes. and Black lettering that spells out the word “Repsol.’’

Anyone with information should call the sheriff’s office, (813) 247-8200. To be eligible for a cash reward and remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477), go to www.crimestopperstb.com or text “CSTB” plus the tip to CRIMES (274637).

jpatino@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7659

Twitter: @jpatinoTBO

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