The trespasser was bent over, rummaging through a barrel of scrap material at a Spokane Valley residence this morning, when he looked up to find the barrel of a 12-gauge shotgun pointed at him.
The trespasser might have thought no one was home; unfortunately for him, however, 50-year-old Chris Malloy had the day off.
And he was armed.
Malloy was passing by a bedroom window in his house, located on the 13600 block of East 20th Avenue, when he spotted the unfamiliar man on his property. He grabbed his shotgun and rounded his shop to confront the man, who authorities later identified as Kevin Neu.
Malloy racked the shotgun and ordered Neu to the ground. Realizing he didn’t have his cell phone, Malloy escorted the man to a neighbor’s house to call 911, Chamberlin said.
Spokane Valley Sheriff’s deputies arrived in five minutes and arrested Neu on suspicion of criminal trespassing and possession of a stolen vehicle.
“The homeowner did exactly what he should have done,” said Deputy Craig Chamberlin. “He didn’t go overboard. He kept his composure.”
The trespasser had a small knife on his belt, but was otherwise unarmed.
Malloy has been burglarized three times in the last three months. In those incidences, the thief or thieves pilfered copper wires, aluminum wheels, and a motorcycle from the garage. Malloy has surveillance, but was happy to catch the thief in action today.
“I thought, ‘I got lucky,’” he said. “I got him.”
This is the latest of several recent cases in the region in which an armed homeowner stopped a criminal in action.
In April, 63-year-old grandmother Sandra Mize shot at a man with her .22-caliber handgun after he broke into her north Spokane home as she slept. She missed, but persuaded the intruder wait until police arrived to arrest the man, who they identified as 35-year-old Sean Denny.
About a month later, Jared Martin, a National Guardsman who served in Iraq and Kuwait, was armed as he chased a suspected burglar near his west Spokane property. He caught the man a few blocks away and detained him until police arrived.
Chamberlin said residents have a right to defend themselves and their homes, but deadly force can only be used when there is imminent threat to their safety. “You can protect yourself,” Chamberlin said. “You can protect your property.”
But prosecutors say one homeowner went too far. In a case that has ignited debate throughout the communty, Gail Gerlach, 56, faces first-degree manslaughter for allegedly shooting and killing 25-year-old Brendon T. Kaluza-Graham March 25 as Kaluza-Graham sped off in Gerlach’s vehicle. Gerlach pleaded not guilty to the charge June 12. Gerlach has said he thought the thief was going to shoot him.
Malloy’s actions may help authorities solve other property crimes, Chamberlin said.
Authorities say Neu had keys to a van parked near Malloy’s residence that had been stolen in the Newman Lake area Monday. At least six vehicle prowls and a residential burglary had been reported and the van was filled with items authorities believe were stolen during the crime spree.
“Those are the things we are going to be investigating today,” Chamberlin said. “I think we’re going to solve numerous crimes. He’s looking at several more charges down the road.”
Malloy, an avid hunter who has lived in the area for 30 years, said others in his neighborhood have also fallen victim to thieves, and he keeps the shotgun for protection. The neighbors organize night patrols and hope to reinstate a block watch soon.
A sign on the front of his shop has a picture of a gun and reads: “Caution: I don’t call 911.”
In this instance, he did call 911, but he said he wouldn’t hesitate to use the gun “if need be.”
“I don’t know what these guys are capable of,” he said.