It happened to me!
A Home Invasion, Freezing Rain, and Other Rude Awakenings
by Richard E. Klein and John Boch
Part I: Rude awakenings
In our society, the matter of dealing with a home invasion is, for many, pretty removed from our daily concerns.
Recently my world and all its assumptions were forced into a rude awakening as I was caught literally with my pants down by a home invader on the night of an ice storm.
My wife Marjorie, being diligent and studious, had opted to stay up doing some paperwork at the kitchen table after I’d gone to bed. At about 1:30 AM, she heard some noises outside the kitchen window. She assumed that it was our forlorn cat making noise so as to be let in so she opened the door.
The “cat” turned out to be a cat burglar struggling back to his feet after falling on ice outside our door. Marjorie said he was young, tall, and sturdy. He somewhat incoherently insisted that he was at his friend Ryan’s house or something like that and demanded entry. Marjorie closed the rear door and latched the dead-bolt before our uninvited guest could make entry.
At this point the events took a far more ominous turn. After locking the rear kitchen door Marjorie went directly to our bedroom where I was asleep. As she was about to wake me, she saw a man’s shadow in our central hallway. Looking down the hallway she saw that the prowler had gained entry to the house, and was then at a distance of about twenty feet from her.
The prowler was illuminated by the kitchen lights, still turned on, so she got an even better look at him. He was making his way into our lighted kitchen. Marjorie was certain he didn’t notice her.
He had somehow made entry though our front door, as evidenced by muddy tracks in the house. The front doorknob was locked, but I hypothesize that the door had inadvertently not been fully closed. He in no way made any sound as to announce himself. There was no ring on the doorbell, no knock or greeting, nor any shout from him to communicate his presence in the house.
As I gained my faculties upon being suddenly awakened with the news of an intruder inside our home, I put on my pants. As the old saying goes, I was literally caught with my pants down.
Once on my feet I snapped into action, realizing that my usual bedside defensive handgun wasn’t in its place thanks to visitors at Thanksgiving sleeping in our bedroom. My closest firearms were located in the basement, at the extreme opposite end of the house, and secured in a set of large gun storage vaults!
My worst defensive scenario was upon me, and in spite of years of training and planning, I was unarmed and defenseless in the sanctity of my own home! I knew from my training that I was in big trouble.
I weighed my options for a moment then opted to use “voice projection” and to take the offensive.
Without exposing myself, I loudly proclaimed “YOU ARE AN INTRUDER. PLEASE LEAVE THIS HOUSE AT ONCE. I AM ARMED. I HAVE CALLED THE POLICE.” In response, I heard a strange voice suggesting he heard me.
I learned this technique of using a command voice in reaction to a home invasion at the NRA Personal Protection course that I had taken in 1997.
I instructed Marjorie to remain in our bedroom, and better yet, to get into the bath
room within. The decision for me came down to “what next?” I didn’t even think to instruct Marjorie to use the bedroom phone to dial 9-1-1. My mind had ceased to think rationally.
Even worse, the intruder was in the kitchen area where ample knives and other sharp objects abound. My training has also taught me that an assailant with a knife needs to be taken very seriously, as knives can do great damage.
Right or wrong, I made the decision to move cautiously through the house using repeated voice projection as my primary tool. I did make it to the basement area and it took me a minute or two to turn the combination dial, and a vault was open.
The most accessible firearm was a Glock 21 in .45ACP. By a rare stroke of good fortune, I had purchased self-defense rounds and loaded the magazines only the day before.
Marjorie had ventured out to join me, and we called 9-1-1. I would let the police clear the house as they are professionals, and I would get an opportunity to test their response and professionalism.
I waited what seemed like twenty minutes (dispatch records show it was under ten minute) – an eternity when you have an intruder in your home – for the police to arrive. The powerful engines in their police squads were of little benefit as the roads were treacherously slick with ice.
While waiting, Marjorie talked with the dispatcher while I watched for our intruder.
After police arrived, I placed my Glock on the kitchen table and greeted them at the back door where Marjorie had initially seen the intruder. They searched the house and no intruder was found.
After another twenty or thirty minutes, the officers received word that the suspect matching Marjorie’s description was found in Ladue, a few miles away, beating on someone else’s door. He had been arrested there and brought to our home. Marjorie identified him as our intruder.
It turns out the kid was a university football player who was very intoxicated. He was very nearly shot at the second home he was attempting to make entry. That homeowner had his handgun handy and was prepared to fire if his door was breached.
From my perspective I was pleased and impressed with the professionalism and efficiency of the 9-1-1 system and the responding police officers. The delay in the police response coming to my home was due to the icy roads and had no bearing or reflection on the competence of the police.
Part II: Epilogue
The local constabulary arrived at my home and made contact with me and cleared the house. As I was being interviewed by the lead officer, officers received word that a suspect matching my wife Marjorie’s description was arrested in Ladue, a few miles away, beating on someone else’s door. He was brought to our home and Marjorie identified him as our intruder.
I was then asked if we wished to press charges against the suspect, now in police custody. In turn I asked the older officer, “What do you recommend?” He said to press charges so I responded “yes.”
The intruder was from a good family and had no prior criminal background. The police said that the intruder would most likely “sober up” overnight in a jail cell, and likely then be released to the custody of his mother, again known to the older police officer.
My attitude was that the intruder, even if intoxicated and confused about where he was, had no legal grounds to be in my home. Once it was confirmed that the suspect was in custody, the situation in our home became relaxed and even to an extent social.
Another officer, the youngest of the three, and I had a conversation about Missouri’s castle doctrine, and what steps I could (and should) take to improve my home’s security situation. He advised that I get a lock box with quick access for my bedroom, and that I keep a firearm in it. Also, he pointed out the importance of bolting down the firearm security box.
He explained that Missouri’s castle doctrine gives the home owner many rights, one being that the “Duty to Retreat” is not mandated by Missouri law.
In the midst of this discussion I stated that I owned homes both in Missouri and Illinois, and that my legal residence was Illinois. I told the officer that my Missouri home was a second home, and that my wife and I spent some time here thus allowing us to be closer to grand children and family. The discussion then turned to the benefits of Missouri’s castle doctrine law. The officer made a particular point to mention that the Missouri law in this regard was better as compared to the situation across the river (referring to Illinois). He and I discussed the merits of semi-auto vs. revolvers for home protection as well as the safety issues of children discovering a firearm.
The officer then made some other suggestions and again stressed the importance of a quick-access strong box for a defensive firearm in the bedroom area.
As we summed things up, I did ask the younger police officer if my actions were “correct”. He complimented me on my professionalism and calm demeanor. He did ask if, when I said that I was armed, that was I bluffing (as I wasn’t then armed), and I said “yes.” He admitted that my strategy of voice projection “was effective” and indeed “did the job.” I did not go into lengths on my firearms background and training, but I am certain that these police officers knew that I was not a neophyte.
A Meeting with the Detective
As a follow-up to the Cricket intrusion, on December 29th, I visited the Brentwood Police Department. I spoke with the detective who interviewed the suspect the morning following the incident.
The suspect when taken into custody was extremely intoxicated and disoriented. The intruder is a college student and local high-school football star. After he left my home he somehow got a lift to an area to the west around Manchester Road, several miles distant. In Ladue he then pounded on a door of a house thinking it was a friend’s house, which it wasn’t. The woman within called the Ladue police on 9-1-1 and proceeded to tell the dispatcher that her husband already had his gun out and had it pointed at the door. The husband was going to kill the intruder if he managed to break the door down. The Ladue police arrived and arrested the intruder nearby.
In the detective’s opinion, the freezing rain meant that crime had come to near zero that night, and the time line between the incidents involving an intoxicated person of the same description was a no-brainer.
The detective said the intruder was still drunk and disoriented the next morning. The detective told the suspect that he was very lucky to still be alive.
The detective said that he carries at all times (no surprise), and that he indeed carries two pieces (also, no surprise to me). He went on to say that if the intruder had entered his house that the intruder would be dead, as in d-e-a-d.
My sense is that a trial will most likely never happen, as the facts are not in dispute and the prosecutor and defense will cut some type of deal.
We did receive a letter of apology from the young man in which he acknowledged his mistakes that night and accepted full responsibility for those actions. It read as though someone wrote the letter for him, perhaps an attorney or a parent.
My sense is that the young man as an intruder who entered my home was lucky to have selected my home. My knowledge, discipline, and restraint (along with my misfortune of not having my home defense piece nearby) provided for his safety, and in the end he has (hopefully) been taught an important lesson in life.
If he had selected some other home to barge in on, the outcome could have been far more serious for him. With less training, they might well have been less restrained. In a similar tone, I am of the conviction that my ability to handle this type of intrusion has aided the public good, as the community at large is safer as a result of my presence and actions. Guns and gun training do not cost life, but rather save and preserve life.
I told the details to Marjorie about what the detective had to say. In response, Marjorie felt very good in how we handled the intrusion, and that the safe room concept in our home is “the way to go.” I perceive that Marjorie is truly thankful for my presence and my ability to remain calm and to take the higher path in life. I also doubt if Marjorie will ever question the merits of my passionate collecting of firearms and being interested in shooting as a sport and in my self defense proficiency. She and I mutually concluded that this episode would hopefully serve as a wake-up call for this young man.
As a closing note, the investment in equipment, training, and protocol is not that expensive considering what is at stake.
Police services and even insurance policies address matters after the fact, whereas self defense training and skill with accessible firearms address events at the time when the most critical aspects play out.
I’m so very thankful for the gun I hadn’t sold. Unlike so many things we purchase, firearms in particular hold their value and even appreciate.
And some days, they may even save our lives or those of our loved ones.
© 2011, All Rights Reserved. Originally in the March / April 2011 issues of GunNews