The trespasser was bent over, rummaging through a barrel of scrap material at a Spokane Valley residence Tuesday, when he looked up into the barrel of a 12-gauge shotgun.
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 along 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 pumped the shotgun and leveled it at Neu, ordering him to the ground. Realizing he didn’t have his cellphone, Malloy escorted the man to a neighbor’s house to call 911, Spokane County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Deputy Craig Chamberlin said.
Spokane Valley sheriff’s deputies arrived within 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,” Chamberlin said. “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 past three months. The thieves stole copper wires, aluminum wheels and a motorcycle from the garage. Malloy has surveillance, but was happy to catch the trespasser in action.
“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 an intruder 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 to wait for police. About a month later, Jared Martin, a National Guardsman who served in Iraq and Kuwait, chased a suspected burglar near his west Spokane property. He caught the man and detained him.
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.”
Prosecutors say one homeowner went too far. In a case that has ignited debate throughout the community, Gail Gerlach, 56, faces a first-degree manslaughter charge for allegedly shooting and killing 25-year-old car thief Brendon T. Kaluza-Graham on March 25.
Gerlach pleaded not guilty to the charge June 12. He told police he thought the thief – who was driving away in Gerlach’s SUV – was raising a gun to shoot at him.
Malloy’s actions may help authorities solve other property crimes, Chamberlin said.
Authorities say Neu had keys to a van parked nearby that had been stolen in the Newman Lake area Monday. At least six vehicle prowls and a residential burglary were reported that day and the van was filled with items authorities believe were stolen.
“I think we’re going to solve numerous crimes. He’s looking at several more charges down the road,” Chamberlin said.
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.