Gunman Robs Payton Of Cash, Jewelry

SAN LEANDRO, Calif. - Seattle SuperSonics guard Gary Payton narrowly escaped injury in a confrontation with a gunman who fired once during a struggle before fleeing with $60,000 worth of cash and jewelry.

The shot was fired into the ground when Payton grabbed at the robber's gun in the holdup Sunday night at an apartment-building parking lot. There were no injuries and the gunman remained at large, said Lt. Ted Nelson of the Alameda County Sheriff's Department.

Payton, Seattle's starting point guard who is averaging 14.5 points per game, sprinted to safety after the shot was fired and the gunman disappeared with Payton's valuables.

A native of Oakland, Payton had returned to the San Francisco Bay area with his girlfriend, Monique James, to visit friends and family during the NBA All-Star break. They were staying with James' mother, at whose apartment building in unincorporated San Leandro, 25 miles east of San Francisco, the robbery took place.

Payton, who is making $2.1 million this season, had been seen around town sporting expensive jewelry and carrying a lot of cash, Nelson said.

Investigators believe the robber tracked Payton to the Liberty Street apartment building, hid behind a trash bin and waited for Payton to come out.

When Payton walked to his car at about 11 p.m., someone called out his first name and told him to "Come over here," Nelson said.

Payton turned toward the bin and saw a man level a chrome-plated

pistol at him. He started to run but slipped.

The gunman raced over and told him to stay on the ground or "I'll pop you," Nelson said.

Payton then handed over his Rolex watch, a ring, a necklace and $1,000 in cash. The gunman then demanded "the rest of the stuff I know you got," deputies said.

The gunman pointed the gun at Payton's face, causing Payton to think he was about to be killed, Nelson said. Payton grabbed the barrel of the gun and pushed the robber into his car, triggering the car alarm.

A shot rang out and the bullet struck the ground. Payton then broke free and ran to the apartment, yelling for help. The robber ran off with the loot.

"Things are going to go on like that in Oakland," Payton said. "People know you. They watch you. They follow you. Then they come out of the dark and hold you up.

"It's better to give it all to him than struggle. The money's gone, but the watch can be replaced. It's a scary thing."