Sunday, February 14, 2016
An Outlaw's Luckiest Day, or Five Chances To Die
Pattie's front door is where the night of horror began for us, but we were just the end of the line for the criminal that came into our lives. Eric Hall of Carmi had been in police custody and had a psych evaluation by Skype in McLeansboro. The doctor who interviewed him gave him a clean bill and told the police to release him. He stole a car and went north on IL Hwy 242, wrecking the car at Rube's Liquor Locker, and then burning it. He stole another car and wrecked that one at our driveway. We knew none of this, and I was stoking the basement stove. When I was outside picking up wood, Lightning the feral dog was in the lower yard, obviously disturbed and not barking. That was unusual but did not alarm me. I finished up with the stove, locked the basement door and went upstairs where Susan had gone to bed after tucking in her mother. The dogs were all in bed in the proper places. I emptied my pockets and was untying my shoes when there was a loud pounding at the door. Susan got up as I went to the door. The person pounding outside shouted that there had been a wreck, and like a dumbie, I opened the door. (Mistake!) The perp was wearing a red t-shirt, no coat or hat, and he lunged at the storm door making unintelligible noises. I slammed the door and turned the bolt. He started pounding on the storm door. I told Susan to call 911 and to tell them we had drunks outside, and to stay with her mother. At that time I did not even have a pocketknife on me. We heard glass breaking, and that was the storm door; pounding on the door began, and I told Susan I was going to the office to get a gun. (Mistake: All of our guns were at the far end of the house from our living space, locked in a gun safe.) I opened the safe and reached in for my Redhawk, which I knew the location of. It was unloaded, but cartridges were right next to the safe. Loading it was difficult with shaky hands. (Mistake: House guns should be ready to use in an emergency.) I locked the safe and went back to the bedrooms. (Mistake: I should have grabbed a second gun for Susan. There were three loaded .22 revolvers in the safe, plus two .357's, but I would have had to sort through a stack of cased guns.)
Susan was on the phone with a 911 operator throughout this ordeal, and she was sitting on the side of her mother's bed. The perp next went to the porch on the opposite side of the house where he attacked the three big windows with chairs and trash cans. I had turned on the porch lights and turned off the interior lights so I could watch him during this phase. We thought the windows would go at any time, but they held. He also tried to kick in the library door, which you can see just beyond the third big window. Had any of these points broken he would have been right into our living space.
A trash can full of sunflower seeds did not break the windows and I saw him throw it over the porch rail in frustration.
My point was here, at the end of the hallway with bedrooms (Pattie's is on the right.) behind me,
The front door that was the beginning of the attack on my left,
and the dining, kitchen, and living space was ahead of me. The big windows face the porch, and there is a door at the end of the counter that he did not try. The door at the far end of this room goes into the library, and a few feet beyond that is the man-door into the attached garage.
He returned to Pattie's room and threw more wood through the windows, and then made another attack on the porch. I was able to move a few feet back and forth between this room and the living space to defend in two directions from cover and concealment from the outside. Noise continued, but we could not tell what was happening. He had gained access into the attached garage through a broken window. He ransacked the pickup truck, stole two ham-hocks, a tub of lard and fried okra from the freezer, took a bag of paperwork from the truck and put it in the car, and backed out of the garage with the passenger door open. It took three attempts for him to batter his way through the garage door, and he laid rubber with all four wheels twice. We knew none of this at the time. He took a joyride through the yard east of the house, and we saw car lights go by Pat's bedroom. Then things got quiet. Pretty soon lights went by, going north, followed immediately by red and blue lights. The 911 operator told us that police were arriving, and after a long wait, police lights came by the house again. We still knew nothing about the activities outside at this point. The 911 operator told us that police were coming to our door, and we responded that I was disarming and would open the door with empty hands.
The State Police took me outside and asked me if the Thermos in the driveway was mine, and it was! That was odd, because it had been in the pickup in the garage, and I said so. They then shined their lights on the south end of the house and I saw the broken garage door. They walked me over to the door and shone a light in. I saw the ransacked truck and then I realized the car was gone. They asked what kind of car we had, then the color and license number. Then they asked if I had a tripod in the car. Odd Question! Why yes, we shoot videos, and Pattie uses a tripod when she is shooting pistols. Well the tripod almost got the guy killed. They told me that he had crashed the car up north and got out of the car wielding the tripod like a gun. The Hamilton Sheriff's deputy that had pursued him north realized at the last possible instant that the tripod was not a gun, holstered his weapon, and used the Tazer to take down the perp.
Think of the chances this lowlife criminal had to die that night! Three stolen car wrecks, an unsuccessful campaign to gain entry into the living space of a home with an armed resident, and then a deputy who would have been very justified to use deadly force. Well, we are very fortunate and are blessed that the guy did not get into our space in the house. Our troubles are very manageable and this guy will be put away for a good, long time. The police at the scene were exhibiting some giddiness that there had been no bloodshed, and everyone was in a good mood, considering the circumstances.
We had a few things wrong, all in preparation. Guns should have been more readily accessible for an emergency situation, and that is being corrected. Most things were done right. We stayed in, utilizing the barrier of the walls for our safety. We knew not to shoot except to defend life, and our gun never became part of the crime scene because it never was seen by the perp, nor was I except for the brief encounter when I opened the door. I followed the State Police as they cleared the house and told them what was behind every door, including at our bedroom, where I warned them that dogs were in that room, and a pistol to the right on a dressing table. That was not a problem since they were told in advance of seeing it.
The Illinois State Police, the Hamilton County Sheriff and his deputies exhibited the very best of professionalism at our home, and we are grateful for their quick response to a very busy crime scene. The training we have had from Mike and Valinda Rowe of the Carmi Rifle Club served us well. Training from the Appleseed Project was also quite valuable. We have studied much of Massad Ayoob's knowledge over the years, and have learned much from other bloggers in the gun-blog community.
We are making changes to improve our home security, and your comments with helpful observations are of course welcome.