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Tenant kills thief hiding under bed

POLICE OVERLOOK BURGLAR: Charleston police failed to find a burglar during an apartment search after a resident came home to find items missing.

Originally published Sunday, February 4, 2001

Of The Post and Courier staff

A burglar undetected during a police search of an East Side apartment early Saturday morning later crawled from beneath a bed and was shot in the head during a gunfight with a resident.

The burglar was shot after he shot and wounded Shermaine D. Whitley, who lives in the ground-level apartment on South Street, police said.

Whitley, 26, was shot in his left leg. He was treated at Medical University Hospital, but his condition was unknown late Saturday.

The burglar, who died at the hospital, had not been identified late Saturday night, said Charleston County Deputy Coroner Rae Wooten.

Police first were summoned to the apartment around 4:30 a.m. when Cherese Belin, the tenant, and Whitley returned home to find an air conditioner removed from a window and money and jewelry missing from a bedroom.

Police think the man entered the home sometime between 11:30 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. by removing the air conditioner and crawling through the window.

Whitley and police walked through the home but found no one inside.

"They didn't look under the beds," said Charles Francis, spokesman for the Charleston Police Department.

Around 5:30 a.m., Belin told Whitley that she still felt uneasy and asked him to search the home a second time.

Whitley grabbed his gun and searched two bedrooms. The couple then noticed an out-of-place toy that prompted them to peek under a bed, where they found the hiding burglar. Whitley ordered the burglar out, but the man yelled and fired two shots from a pistol, one striking Whitley's left leg. During a struggle, Whitley grabbed the burglar's gun with one hand and punched him with the other.

Whitley then grabbed his own gun and shot the burglar in the face twice, according to police reports.

Meanwhile, Belin ran to a nearby service station and called police.

When officers arrived they found the burglar lying on his back next to a pistol, bleeding from the head, according to police reports.

Francis said no criminal charges will be filed against Whitley.

"The suspect fired first. The victim returned fire," Francis said. "He was defending himself."

Wooten said she needs the public's help to identity the dead burglar.

"We worked all day long. We don't know who he is," she said.

The dead man is described as a light-skinned black man, about 6 feet, 2 inches tall and weighing about 175 pounds. He is between 25 and 35 years of age.

His upper right arm has a tattoo of a champagne or wine bottle with the letters "D" "F" "L". His right chest has a tattoo of a heart and lightning bolt, Wooten said.

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