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Armed man thwarts burglary attempt

Originally ran here as:
Armed man thwarts burglary attempt
by Joe Gerrety
Journal and Courier
August 18, 2001

A businessman who aborted a burglary to his Battle Ground residence said he's not sure what might have happened if he hadn't been armed.

Dennis Clark, president of Lafayette Glass Co., chased a would-be burglar from his property Wednesday night and pursued him into Carroll County during a vehicle pursuit that reached 80 mph.

A 17-year-old Lafayette boy was arrested Thursday afternoon by Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Department detectives on suspicion of burglary and attempted burglary while armed, an offense that under Indiana law must be filed in adult court, despite the suspect's age.

The Journal and Courier will identify the suspect after official charges are filed in adult court, which will likely be early next week.

Clark said he suspects the same person burglarized his home three nights earlier, taking cash from his wife's purse and three or four firearms from his garage.

"I've often said that I would probably not shoot to kill someone," said Clark, 58, a long-time gun owner who is licensed to carry a handgun.

"On second thought now ... I should have shot him in the leg."

The confrontation started about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday at Clark's home on Indian Mound Trail off Pretty Prairie Road.

Clark said his wife was in a bathroom that opens to an outdoor hot tub when she saw the door knob turn. She looked out and saw a man in the back yard. She called to her husband, who grabbed his 9-mm semiautomatic handgun and went out the front door, spotting the prowler in his front yard.

Clark ordered the intruder to stop, and when he didn't Clark fired a shot into the ground.

Not knowing if there were others hiding in the darkness, Clark said he ordered the man to step on to the porch, where both he and the suspect would be in the light. When the man refused, he fired again into the ground.

The man started backing away and then bolted for his vehicle, an older-model blue Chevrolet pickup truck.

Clark fired again into the ground, trying to get the man to stop.

"I think he sensed that I was not going to shoot him," Clark said.

Clark then got into his own vehicle and pursued the suspect. The pursuit went into Battle Ground, then east on Indiana 225, north on Indiana 25, and east on Carroll County Road 900 South.

Throughout the chase, Clark said, he was fumbling around in his vehicle for his cellular telephone so he could alert police.

At one point during the chase, Clark said, the suspect stopped his truck and motioned for Clark to pull up beside him. But then, the suspect started backing up, and Clark fired his gun in an attempt to shoot out the truck's tires. He missed, and the suspect sped away.

Seeing no evidence that the chase might end soon and fearing he might run out of gas, Clark decided it was time to stop and locate his phone. Clark never found his phone because he later concluded the intruder had stolen it before their confrontation.

By the time he was back behind the wheel, he had lost track of the suspect.

Police were at his residence when he returned home and found one of his own loaded weapons lying on the lawn. He suspects the intruder had attempted to steal it as well.

During the course of the chase, Clark was able to get the suspect's vehicle license number and, using that information along with the physical description provided by Clark, police were able to identify the suspect.

But Clark said Wednesday night wasn't his first sleepless night.

"I think I felt worse after Sunday night than I did last night," Clark said. "Just the thought of knowing someone broke into your house while you and your family were home."

About 9 a.m. Monday, Clark discovered that someone had entered the house the night before, taken his wife's purse from a kitchen counter, carried it to a screened-in porch and stole cash from it. The intruder also took some guns from the home's attached garage.

Since that time, Clark said, he had been keeping his pistol and ammunition clip together near his bed. Normally, he said, he keeps the two separate in secure locations.

Along with he and his wife, a son and two grandchildren were in the house Sunday night. His 25-year-old daughter was also home Wednesday night.

Detective Sgt. Steve Kohne of the sheriff's department said Lafayette patrol officers spotted the truck parked outside an apartment building off Indiana 38 East early Thursday afternoon. County detectives watched the vehicle until the suspect showed up. They followed him to the area of 14th and Cincinnati streets and arrested him shortly after 4 p.m.

He was arrested on two warrants unrelated to Wednesday night's burglary attempt.

Police searched the apartment where they suspect the youth had been staying and found a rifle, a shotgun, a pellet gun and a power drill taken from Clark's garage during the Sunday night break-in.

Clark said he'd sleep a lot easier now. He had feared the suspect might return to his home with friends to retaliate.

"I feel better now, knowing he's under arrest," Clark said.

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