Two people were injured in Tamaqua last night in a twisted chain of events that included the theft of a motor vehicle, a stabbing/assault and a shooting.

The incident began shortly before 9 p.m. in the parking lot in front of the Wine and Spirits Shoppe on North Railroad Street. The manager of the store had just cleared the freshly fallen snow off of his co-worker's 1997 silver Nissan Altima and left the vehicle running to warm up.

As he cleared the snow from his own vehicle, parked several feet away, three young males approached the Nissan. The males jumped into the car and drove away, traveling north on the southbound only Railroad Street.

The manager gave chase, according to witness Charles Ballantine, owner of Domino's Pizza, located in the same strip mall. Ballantine noted the stolen car narrowly avoided being struck by oncoming traffic.

The manager saw the Nissan turn right on to Biddle Street and called police on his cell phone. He described the thieves, then gave the cell phone to his co-worker to provide the vehicle information. The man then jumped into his own vehicle and gave chase.

As he drove north on Pine Street, he saw the three suspects walking west on West Elm Street and stopped his vehicle. When he confronted them, the males began assaulting him, one using a possible set of brass knuckles to strike him about the head, while another pulled a knife and stabbed him in the left hand.

At this point, the beating victim drew a handgun and shot one of his attackers in the abdomen. He then made his way back to his car, chased by one of the men. He returned to the liquor store, spoke with police and was transported to St. Luke's Miners Memorial Hospital, Coaldale, for treatment of his wound.

Police searched for and found the shooting victim on Rolling Mill Avenue. He was transported to St. Lukes Miners Memorial in Coaldale, then transferred to St. Luke's Hospital in Bethlehem. Four people were taken into custody, then later released.

An intensive search began and officers discovered the stolen vehicle hidden near a row of garages on Locust Street.

As of press time, police were gathering evidence from three sites and speaking to possible witnesses. Cpl. Henry Woods, the department's criminal investigator, is spearheading the investigation.

Also assisting were officers from Rush and West Penn Townships, as well as Coaldale Police.

Tamaqua Police Chief Dave Mattson noted "The Tamaqua Police Department works hard at protecting our residents, but there will always be a criminal element to deal with. This was a crime of opportunity. If we, as citizens, provide such opportunities, the criminals will continue to take them."

Mattson said it appeared the incident was "a crime of opportunity" because the vehicle that was stolen had been left unattended, and is not believed to be part of any larger crime spree.

"It started as the theft of a vehicle and looks to be an isolated incident," Mattson stated.

Mattson said he is also communicating with the office of Schuylkill County District Attorney James Goodman concerning the incident.

(TIMES NEWS Tamaqua Bureau Chief Joe Plasko also contributed to this report.)