August 16, 1976 12:00 PM

For two young Pennsylvanians, the terrifying ordeal began without warning when two masked gunmen burst into the Option Insulating Company near Pittsburgh, fleeing from a holdup nearby. Trapped by pursuing policemen, the bandits demanded a getaway car. While other workers scrambled for cover, Steve Schindler, 21, stepped forward with the keys to his 1967 Volkswagen. “Don’t hurt anybody,” he pleaded. Taking Schindler and Chris Williams, 23, as hostages, the gunmen sped away. During a desperate half-hour chase, dozens of shots were exchanged. “When the police opened fire, I couldn’t believe it,” Williams says. “We were more afraid of them than the robbers, because they were the ones shooting at us.”

Finally Schindler’s bullet-riddled car was forced off the road. In its bloody interior, police found the assailants—Carl Johnson, 26, shot five times, and his older brother Calvin, 32, with a scalp wound. Incredibly, Williams was unscathed. But Schindler had been hit in the spine by a Pittsburgh policeman’s bullet—and may be paralyzed from the waist down. A police spokesman conceded that officers are instructed not to shoot at hostages. “But when someone is firing a gun at you,” he observed, “it’s hard to tell what you are going to do.” Unconvinced, Schindler says he will sue.

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