Yesterday while enjoying a nice cup of coffee and browsing the local newspaper collection at my favorite Sydney breakfast spot, I was captivated by a photo taken by David Proeber and featured in The Daily Telegraph. As I stared into the eyes (via the below photo) of what appeared to be a crazed gunman brandishing a pistol and puffing on a cigarette, I thought to myself, this must be an ad for an upcoming action movie. The shootout scene from the movie Heat, featuring Al Pacino, Robert Dinero, and Val Kilmer immediately came to mind. As I read further, I learned that this was the photo of Robert Sylvester, a man suspected of robbing four banks and several convenience stores in Illinois. This was not a scene being created for the big screen but a live event captured through the lens of a courageous photographer.
Sylvester was fleeing police in a high-speed vehicle chase when he stopped his SUV and exited the vehicle. Proeber, who works as a photo editor for The Pantagraph, a daily newspaper located in Bloomington, Illinois; found himself in a precarious situation after following the chase and taking pictures. As Sylvester exited, jumped a median, and ran towards him, Proeber had to make a quick decision to flee or snap. Proeber eventually ducked as the robber came closer towards him and then floored the accelerator- but not before taking 47 photographs of the incident in a three minute period. The 57 year old Sylvester exchanged shots with police but was shot and later died from his wounds.
David Proeber, for taking what may go on to be a Pulitzer prize winning photo, the courage to stare into the eyes of an armed fugitive, and the fortitude to continue snapping photos, I salute you!