Veteran Hampton police officer honored for harrowing night on the job
Carol Lomb never worried about her husband as he left for the night shift. Hampton is a small town, where she grew up and felt safe.
“It’s not like the city,” she said.
For years, Sgt. Robert Lomb has woken up at dinnertime and is on the road by midnight, because even at 60 years old, he’s not much of an office guy.
In the early morning hours of Aug. 26, as most families slept, Lomb, a former Navy man, was navigating the quiet suburban streets in an unmarked car.
A call came over the radio. A potentially armed man was on the loose in Hampton after firing two shots at Bellisario’s pizza restaurant in McCandless.
Vincent Barnes, 41, of Pittsburgh, had five warrants out for his arrest. Charges included assault on a Pittsburgh police officer.
As Lomb turned the corner on to Duncan Avenue, he spotted a man about 150 yards down the road who matched Barnes’ description and thought he might be the suspect.
Lomb called for backup and pulled up behind Barnes. He exited his vehicle, drew his gun, identified himself and told Barnes to stop. He stepped away from his car and slowly walked toward Barnes.
“I thought that once he realized who I was, he would dive off in to the woods,” he said. “I would’ve called the state police helicopter.”
Instead Barnes turned, looked at Lomb and raised his arm.
“I couldn’t tell what he was holding. I actually thought it was a cell phone.”
Then Lomb heard a pop and saw the flash of a .22 caliber muzzle. Lomb fired twice and saw Barnes stumble to the left.
“It was obvious I had struck him so I thought he probably wouldn’t fire again.”
But he did fire again, so Lomb returned fire and watched Barnes fall to the pavement. Lomb called for the paramedics. It was the first time he had fired a weapon at a human being, he said.
“I was right beside him. I saw him take his last breath,” Lomb said. “It wasn’t a pleasant feeling.”
Two months later, Lomb is back on his beat, a practicing Catholic at peace with the world.
“I was doing my job, protecting the citizens,” he said.
According to family members who have contacted the Hampton police since the shooting, Barnes made it known that he wasn’t going back to jail.
“If he hadn’t encountered me, he could’ve flagged down a vehicle and who knows what would’ve happened,” Lomb said.
Last week, Lomb was honored by Hampton council and Chief Dan Connolly. He arrived with Carol, ushering her toward the back of the room, but before he could settle in his chair, his chief waved him to the front.
“Lomb found himself in a situation that all police officers secretly dread,” Connolly told council members and residents. “His actions were not only justified, but necessary. I’m proud that Sergeant Lomb is a member of the Hampton Police Force and in a leadership position.”
Lomb received an official commendation signed by Connolly and Council President Victor Son. He posed for a photo, shook a few hands and was off for another shift.
“I still don’t worry,” Carol said. “That’s part of the job. He loves his job. There aren’t too many people like that. He’d work seven days a week if he could, but I like him to be home every once in a while.”
Lomb is a firearms instructor for Hampton police and said he’ll use this experience to instruct students what not to do.
“In retrospect, I’ll advise them to use the car as protective cover,” he said. “I felt the shot was too long for him, and I’m a pretty good shot, so I was confident. Fortunately I was right. I was wearing a vest, but what if he got me in the head?”