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Elderly Army veteran carjacked delivering pizzas, survives violent attack by playing dead

Ernie Aimone, 81, was attacked last Wednesday for the first time in 40 years delivering pizza in Chicago. He was punched by a teen who stole his car, then crashed it in a police chase.

Ernie Aimone, 81, said he has never feared for his life in his 40 years of delivering pizzas in Chicago – until last Wednesday, when he was robbed by teen carjackers on his route. 

"I had just finished delivering a pizza, and I was walking back to my car and somebody behind me was yelling 'gimme the keys, gimme the keys' and ran at me real fast from behind," Aimone told Fox News Digital. 

One of the attackers punched him in the face – a "glancing blow," the former Army sergeant said – and he "laid down and made them think that I was unconscious" while they took off with his 2015 Hyundai Sante Fe. 

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Aimone said he was just two blocks away from his home and rushed there to call his boss. 

"He was all frantic, saying 'They got my car, They got my car. They've got food in it from the delivery,'" Aimone's boss at Joe's on Higgins, Frank Demonte, said. "I said 'Whoa, I don't care about the food, are you OK?'"

Hours after the 9:30 p.m. carjacking, state police saw Aimone's car on an expressway, according to an incident report obtained by Fox News Digital – but the driver would not pull over. 

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The thieves crashed Aimone's vehicle in the subsequent police chase. Police arrested one underage suspect, according to a press release, who Aimone said was just 15 years old. 

His insurance may not cover the extensive damages because Aimone was using the car for commercial purposes, according to a GoFundMe started by the Gladstone Chamber of Commerce to get the beloved driver back on the road. 

"He’s like a local legend," president of the chamber, Dan Ciolino, told the New York Post. "He’s been loyal to Joe’s for 40 years. He served our country. He deserves our support in his time of need."

"He's delivered to so many people in the community and has such a great rapport. He's such a wonderful person," Ciolino told Fox News Digital. "He'll do magic tricks for kids, he's just been so entrenched in everything on the northwest side of the city through delivering for us for so many years that everyone knows him." 

Since the fundraising campaign was launched last Wednesday, more than $54,000 has been raised for the "fixture on the Northwest side of Chicago," according to the GoFundMe page.

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Demonte, who has known Aimone since his childhood when his father owned the family restaurant, said this was the first time one of his delivery drivers had run into trouble. 

"[But] this type of thing is happening a lot here… in 40 years we've never had a driver held up or anything. This shouldn't happen to anybody, especially an 81-year-old man," Demonte said. "It's disgusting."

Aimone emerged with just slight bruising to his face. Despite his ordeal, he intends to get back to delivering pizzas, although he may stop working into the night.

"I can't retire, I'd go crazy," he told Fox News Digital. "Walking the floors, watching TV – that's not me." 

"The food is delicious, and I like the people when I deliver… I love the people. I couldn't wait to get out there when the pandemic hit. I know a lot of people were afraid to go out and stuff, but I wanted to help the people," he said of his four decades delivering pizzas for Joe's. "If they have a dog I pet it. The kids, I kind of wave to them. If I have time, a little card trick – a real fast one."

Daughter Robyn Aimone said the outpouring of support from their community has been heartwarming and eye-opening for her dad.

"His whole life… he always thought he didn't do enough for me and my family," she told Fox News Digital. "Now he can finally see that people love and respect him. Now he sees it. I think that's very important to see and to have him be acknowledged for that."

Aimone's daughter said her dad initially felt like a "coward" for "not fighting back" when he was attacked.

"I said 'Dad, you're not a coward, you're a hero. You stayed down...  [and] you came home to me."

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