Mary Rock, 87, moved from Los Angeles to Spokane 10 years ago to escape the high rate of crime there.
But on Tuesday, she found herself in the middle of one of the biggest crime stories of the year, as a man suspected of shooting two Spokane County sheriff’s deputies broke down her back door, ripped her phone off the wall and demanded her car keys.
The petite woman put up a fight, wielding a heavy wooden cane and shouting for Charles Wallace to get out of her north Spokane house.
Police say Wallace, 41, broke into Rock’s home in the 9800 block of North Andrew Street shortly after he shot two sheriff’s deputies during a traffic stop. He then drove the woman’s car on a wild police chase, shooting at pursuing law enforcement officers before crashing the car just outside of Deer Park and shooting himself in the head.
“He was a big man,” Rock said. “Oh, was I scared.”
In an interview Wednesday, Rock said she had been sitting in her living room watching television and sorting mail when she heard commotion in her kitchen. She went to investigate and found Wallace standing there after apparently breaking down her back door.
“I said, ‘What are you doing in my house? Get out of my house.’ ”
She reached for the phone to call 911, but Wallace ripped it out of the wall, then demanded the keys to Rock’s car.
Rock wasn’t ready to throw in the towel.
“I said, ‘Oh my God, this man means business,’ ” she said. “I began hitting him with my cane. I says, ‘Get out of my house,’ and he was shoving me. He pushed me down. I said, ‘You can’t have my car, I need my car.’ ”
The struggle continued into her living room, where the intruder found her fanny pack containing her house keys, car keys and cellphone.
Wallace dragged her out into the driveway, according to witnesses, hitting her with the butt of his gun, but she continued to fight back, striking him with her cane as she fought to stop him from stealing her car.
A neighbor down the street, Kevin Marsh, witnessed the commotion.
“She whacked him with her cane,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Marsh approached the two and tried to help.
“He pointed the pistol at me,” Marsh said. “I was mostly worried about her. I said, ‘Just leave her alone,’ and he got in her car and took off. It was crazy. If I had my shotgun, he never would have made it out of the driveway.”
Wallace drove off in Rock’s 2002 Honda Accord and led police on a pursuit northward that ended with his death.
“Spokane is getting bad,” said Rock’s nephew, Mike Stevens, who owns the home. “This is horrible. It’s all drug-driven. It’s just getting worse and worse.”
Rock’s biggest concerns were that she couldn’t get back into her home Tuesday evening – it was a cordoned-off crime scene – and that Wallace had taken her car, which she had just filled up with gas.
Throughout the struggle, Rock never realized that the man was armed and had just shot two deputies. She was not seriously hurt in the scuffle.
“Everyone said I was so lucky he didn’t pull the gun on me,” she said. “You’d think that you’d be safe in your own home.”