Metropolitan Transit System board chairman and former San Diego councilman Harry Mathis was recovering Thursday from being pistol-whipped with his own gun during a robbery at his University City house.
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The violent home invasion in the 5600 block of Sandburg Avenue was reported about 9:15 p.m. Wednesday, according to San Diego police.
Mathis, 78, had just parked his car in his garage after returning home from an outing when three masked intruders, one armed with a handgun, confronted him, his wife and a neighbor who happened to stop by, SDPD Lt. David Rohowits said.
The transit official responded by pulling a pistol he is licensed to carry and firing two shots in the direction of the armed thief. The bullets apparently did not strike anyone, Rohowits said.
One of the bandits then jumped Mathis, wrestled away his gun and beat him on the head with it. Following the assault, the robbers, whose faces were concealed with ski masks, ordered the victims into the house, demanded cash from all three, locked them in a bathroom and ransacked the residence.
Before fleeing, the robbers set Mathis' car ablaze. Firefighters arrived a short time later and were able to quickly douse the flames, which did not spread to the structure, the lieutenant said.
Medics took Mathis to a hospital for treatment of head injuries. His wife and neighbor were unhurt, Rohowits said.
Mathis returned home 17 hours after the ordeal, waving to reporters as he emerged from a friend's car. His head was wrapped in bandages, and he had a black eye.
He did not speak to the media.
"You saw him walk in. He's in good spirits. He's a strong man. I think he'll be back behind his desk soon," said MTS spokesman and friend Rob Schupp. "Harry just wants everybody to know that he's grateful to be alive, and happy to be home."
After he returned home, several friends and even a priest stopped by to check on Mathis and his wife, Mary. One of the visitors was former San Diego City Clerk Chuck Abdelnour, who said he was shocked to see his friend so badly injured.
As he left the house, Abdelnour told 10News the robbers held a knife to Mary Mathis' throat during the ordeal. He described Mary as "about as calm as anybody can ever be."
This was the third robbery attempt at the Mathis house in as many months.
"It's more than happenstance," said Abdelnour. "This is something I believe was planned.
10News has learned the thieves ransacked the house after ordering Mathis to open his safe and discovering there was no cash inside it. Police have not determined exactly what the thieves stole.
"That will be determined after more thorough interviews are conducted with the victims," Rohowits said.
Mathis was granted a concealed-firearm permit in April 1994, according to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, which issues the licenses.
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