Cab driver James Tilton Harden Jr., 53, who had waited about 6 1/2 hours to retrieve his taxi while city police talked an armed man into surrendering, considered himself a sort of prisoner too.
"I'm just like a hostage," said Harden last night. "I can't go nowhere."
Harden was also poorer because he couldn't drive his cab. "I've lost more than $100," he said.
Harden's role in the ordeal started shortly after noon yesterday when police in Westport, returning fire after a man had fired at them, shot out the back window of his parked cab. The man then holed up in a house in the 2300 block of Norfolk St., where a visiting neighbor was feared being held hostage.
"Oh no, thank God," responded Harden, who has driven cabs for 30 years, when asked if he was in the cab when the window was shot out. "I had just dropped a lady and her little boy off on Maisel Street and came" to Norfolk Street to visit friends.
"I'm glad I wasn't in there," Harden said, adding that if the shooting had occurred 10 minutes later, he might have been in the cab.
The incident began about noon when two plainclothes officers in a car saw a possible drug transaction among a crowd gathered at Kent Avenue and Norfolk Street, said Agent Arlene Jenkins, a police spokeswoman. The officers got out to investigate.
"The suspect started to run from the crowd and the officers chased on foot," Jenkins said. "The suspect removed a handgun from his waistband and fired two times at the officers."
Officers Curtis Calhoun and Charles Carter returned fire, striking Harden's cab. The gunman ran about a half-block farther and --ed inside a house in the 2300 block of Norfolk St., Jenkins said.
About 6:30 p.m., the suspect surrendered, police said. He was identified as James Edward Simms, of no fixed address. No one was injured.
Police said they could not determine if the hostage, Harold Robinson, 24, of the 2600 block of Kent St., had been held against his will.