Basalt police: Pistol-packing neighbors nab intruder
April 29, 2010
BASALT – A 19-year-old midvalley man allegedly picked the wrong neighborhood to try to burglarize Sunday night.
Two homeowners in the Willits neighborhood drew pistols to defend themselves against alleged intruder Nahum Obed Herrera of the Aspen-Basalt Mobile Home Park, Basalt police Sgt. Roderick O’Connor said. One homeowner used a .38-caliber pistol to scare Herrera off when she heard him trying to get in her house, O’Connor said. The other homeowner used a 9-mm pistol to capture and subdue the suspect until police arrived a few minutes later.
O’Connor said Herrera is lucky the incident ended peacefully.
“If he had threatened them, he would have been shot,” O’Connor said. “You go busting into a house, they don’t know what your intent is.”
Homeowner Avi Manges said she became suspicious that there might be someone outside her house around 9:30 p.m. Sunday, when one of her dogs got agitated. She got up to investigate and realized she wasn’t hearing her daughter, who lives in an upstairs apartment. She retrieved her .38-caliber pistol and returned to the area where she heard the sounds.
“I hollered, ‘Who’s there? I’ve got a gun,'” Manges said.
After her warning, the intruder raised his face to peer in the glass pane of an outside door, Manges said. He fled after spotting her and the pistol.
Manges said she kept the gun pointed up with the safety on and didn’t want to use it except as a deterrent. She said she learned how to fire rifles at an early age while growing up in Texas but only learned how to handle a handgun a couple of years ago. She took lessons from an instructor and practiced at the Basalt shooting range.
Manges’ daughter called police, and the first officer on the scene, Mike Taylor, determined that the intruder took a purse from the unlocked car of Manges’ daughter.
After fleeing when confronted by Manges, Herrera allegedly ran to another street in Willits and entered the garage of another house. He took several items from a refrigerator and freezer, including popsicles and a frozen chicken, O’Connor said.
By that time, several officers were looking for him. Basalt had a grant to run DUI saturation patrol that night, so four officers responded to the scene, along with deputies from Eagle and Pitkin counties.
After allegedly stealing items at the second house, Herrera proceeded to a third house and attempted to get inside, O’Connor said. The homeowner heard the commotion and got his 9 mm pistol to investigate. The man, while his wife called authorities, said he saw the intruder run next door. The man saw the intruder flee when officers arrived, and he went in pursuit, O’Connor said. The armed homeowner snuck up on the intruder, who was crouched behind a tree. The man pointed the gun at the intruder’s head and warned him to stay put, O’Connor said.
Another man, described as a rugby player who is about 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, came to the aid of his neighbor and sat on the intruder until police arrived a short time later, O’Connor said.
Herrera was arrested for second-degree burglary and first-degree criminal trespass for allegedly entering the home and the car. He faces two charges of attempted first-degree criminal trespass for allegedly trying to enter two other homes. He was also charged for minor in possession of alcohol. Herrera had a blood-alcohol reading of 0.156, or nearly twice the level considered drunk while driving.
Herrera was taken to the Eagle County jail and later released after posting a $2,500 bond. The suspect, who is a Roaring Fork Valley native, allegedly told officers he was too intoxicated to realize what he was doing.
“All he remembered was, ‘Those guys pointed guns at me. They should be arrested,'” O’Connor said. No charges were filed against the pistol-packing homeowners who pulled the guns.
O’Connor said he believes this was an isolated incident and that the Willits area is safe. Nevertheless, it’s wise for residents to lock the doors of their homes and vehicles even while they are home, he said. He is also strongly encouraging homeowners to establish a neighborhood watch program to look after one another.