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Homeowner Turns Tables, Kills Intruder

Originally published here as:
"Homeowner Turns Tables, Kills Intruder"


Published: Aug 9, 2001

DUNEDIN, FLORIDA - Moments after they returned home Tuesday from an evening out, a Dunedin man and his girlfriend were confronted by an armed intruder, authorities say.

But the resident turned the tables on the unwanted guest, pulling his own firearm, said Pinellas County sheriff's spokesman Cal Dennie. The homeowner fired several shots, striking the intruder multiple times and killing him.

The intruder's name was not released because his family had not been told of his death.

No charges had been filed Wednesday against James A. West, 47, who shot the intruder, Dennie said. West has a concealed weapons permit for his handgun, said sheriff's spokeswoman Marianne Pasha.

West, who is self-employed, declined to comment. He lives at the $260,000 house at 2684 Crystal Circle with his girlfriend, Nancy McHugh, 43.

The intruder, dressed entirely in dark clothing, including a black ski mask, apparently had entered the house through a back window near the pool, Pasha said. The couple returned home about 11:30 p.m. and were confronted by him almost immediately after coming in from the garage, the spokeswoman said.

At some point, McHugh screamed. Subsequently, the robber pointed a gun at the couple and ``charged'' them, Pasha said, which was when West fired.


Another Version of the Above Story

Originally ran here as:
"Armed intruder shot dead in Dunedin"
"Shots are fired when a Dunedin couple finds an armed man in their home. The intruder dies, and police are investigating."
By CHRIS TISCH, St. Petersburg Times
Published August 9, 2001

DUNEDIN -- Detectives were investigating Wednesday after a shooting left an armed man dead in a Dunedin home.

The shooting occurred about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday when James A. West, 47, and his girlfriend, Nancy McHugh, 43, entered their house at 2684 Crystal Circle through the garage. McHugh saw a man in the house and screamed, Pinellas sheriff's officials said.

West said he then saw the intruder running at them with a gun. West either had a gun with him or was able to get a gun, and he shot the intruder several times in the upper torso, sheriff's officials said.

The intruder, who was wearing all black, including a black ski mask, died in the front foyer. He had entered the house by breaking through a back window.

Neighbor Robert Hoyne said McHugh ran to his house after the shooting. Hoyne called 911.

"She was frantic," he said. "These people are the nicest people in the world, and, boy, they were really going crazy with all this that went on."

Detectives identified the dead man Wednesday, but had not found family members as of late in the day. His identity was not released, though sheriff's officials said he is from another part of the state.

West and McHugh could not be reached for comment Wednesday. They are listed as corporate officers of The Golden Diamond Inc., a business with Tampa and Clearwater addresses, according to state corporate records.

The investigation into the shooting was ongoing Wednesday. No charges had been filed.

Florida law allows the use of deadly force if a person is "trying to protect yourself or another person from death or serious bodily harm," or if someone is "trying to prevent a forcible felony, such as rape, robbery, burglary or kidnapping," according to the Florida Department of State.

Though sheriff's officials would not say Wednesday if the shooting was justified, sheriff's spokesman Cal Dennie said: "They have a right to defend themselves in their home . . . if I pose an immediate threat to you, you are allowed to defend yourself.

"I think when someone is running at you with a gun, that is an immediate threat."

West and McHugh applied for and received permits to carry concealed weapons earlier this year. They applied for the licenses the same day they received certificates for completing a two-hour firearm safety course, according to records from the Florida Department of State.

Dennie said people are allowed to have guns in their cars and homes, even without a concealed weapons permit. They also are allowed to transfer a weapon from the car to their home, and vice versa, without a permit, he said.

Dennie said detectives did not want to release how West came in possession of the gun Tuesday night before he shot the intruder.
Detectives also did not release how many times the intruder was shot or what kind of guns the intruder and West had in their hands.
West, who was born in Wisconsin, and McHugh, who was born in Illinois, both apparently moved to Florida in the late 1980s. They received Florida driver's licenses in 1987, records show.

Neither have criminal records in Florida. Both indicated in applications for the weapons permit that they had never been convicted of a felony or of a misdemeanor involving violence.

Dennie said neither West nor McHugh knew the intruder. Nothing had been taken from the house, nor was there evidence anything was rummaged through, Dennie said.

Neighbors said they didn't know West and McHugh had a gun. They had never seen either carry one. Neighbors said they are not the type of people who would be trigger-happy or reckless if they had a firearm.

"I can't picture Jim carrying a gun," said Tom George Jr., a former neighbor.

Hoyne said the incident is probably taking an emotional toll on West and McHugh.

"I'm sure it's devastating," he said. "It was a life and death situation and (West) probably had no other alternative. Obviously, they're fortunate that they were able to save themselves."

Neighbors said the area is quiet and generally safe. The sheriff's office does a good job of patrolling and making residents feel secure, neighbors said.

The last major crime in that immediate area occurred at Hoyne's residence about five years ago. Someone broke into his house while his family was sleeping and took various items, most electronic, from the kitchen, living room and family room.

"It rehashes old memories. Somebody's in your house, it's your private domain," Hoyne said.

- Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report.


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