When you read news stories about burglaries from across the US, it’s easy to see how much one state differs from another when it comes to gun laws and the right to defend your family and property. For instance, in TX residential burglars are periodically shot and even killed during confrontations with their victims, and these homeowners often face no criminal charges. That does not hold true in all states, however, as evidenced by this story from Rochester, New Hampshire.
A New Hampshire man who fired his handgun into the ground to scare an alleged burglar he caught crawling out of a neighbor’s window is now facing a felony charge — and the same potential prison sentence as the man he stopped.
Background on the Incident
Dennis Fleming, 61, of Farmington, was arrested for reckless conduct after the Saturday incident at his 19th century farmhouse. The single grandfather had returned home to find that his home had been burglarized and spotted Joseph Hebert, 27, climbing out of a window at a neighbor’s home. Fleming said he yelled “Freeze!” before firing his gun into the ground, then held Hebert at gunpoint until police arrived.
Oh oh. As I’ve said often, confronting a burglar is a very bad idea. You don’t know if a burglar is armed, high on drugs, or both. Many have paid the ultimate price for this foolish act.
“I didn’t think I could handle this guy physically, so I fired into the ground,” Fleming told FoxNews.com. “He stopped. He knew I was serious. I was angry … and I was worried that this guy was going to come after me.”
Surprise for the Homeowner
No one was injured in the incident, but when the police arrived, they made two arrests. Hebert was charged with two counts of burglary and drug possession. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted. Fleming, meanwhile, is scheduled to be arraigned March 20 on a charge of reckless conduct, which could potentially land him a sentence similar to the one Hebert faces.
“I didn’t know it was illegal [to fire into the ground], but I had to make that guy realize I was serious,” Fleming said. “I’ve got a clean record. I really don’t want to be convicted.”County Attorney Tom Velardi told Foster’s Daily Democrat he will review the case and determine if the charge against Fleming is appropriate under the state statutes regarding self-defense and defense of property.
He’d Handle it Differently Next Time
Fleming, meanwhile, is hoping to catch a break. “I have 14 grandchildren, I don’t want to be a felon and go to jail,” he said. “I’m kind of wound up about it.” Fleming’s collection of seven rifles and a .38-caliber handgun were seized by police. But Fleming said he’s not entirely defenseless: “I’ve got a Louisville Slugger here, but I would call the police,” he said.
Penny Dean, a spokeswoman for the Gun Owners of New Hampshire, said her organization is “absolutely outraged” by Fleming’s arrest. “This homeowner fired at the ground, from all accounts, in a safe direction and held a burglar for police and did things correctly,” Dean told FoxNews.com. “The fact that this man would be charged is an outrage. Burglars in New Hampshire must know it’s open season, since homeowners cannot defend themselves, as evidenced by this case. This is charging the victim.”
A Neighbor Chimes in
Rick Pelkey, Fleming’s longtime neighbor, said he’s now worried how the “straight-forward, working-class guy” will pay legal fees associated with the arrest. “I think it’s outrageous,” Pelkey told FoxNews.com. “He did the community a service here. We ought to thank him for it.”
I’m not sure how this would have played out in Houston or Dallas [Texas], but I suspect it might have had a different ending – i.e. no charge for Mr. Fleming, since he only fired into the ground to stop and detain the suspect. But I did read a follow up story that related how a local attorney will be defending Mr. Fleming for free. That’s welcome news to Mr. Fleming, and his supporters – who hail from as far away as Texas!
Of course, it’s better to prevent a burglary in the first place than risk your life or a felony conviction after the fact. That’s why it make sense to have a monitored home alarm system, since that makes your home three times less likely to be burglarized than your unprotected neighbor. That’s real peace of mind. And the best systems use safer cellular monitoring, in addition to offering smarter interactive features. like remote arming, text & email notifications, and even wireless security cams. FrontPoint specializes in all these services, which is why we’re the leader in wireless home security, and the #1 ranked home alarm company in the US. When you are ready for safer, smarter, simpler, more affordable, and virtually impossible to defeat, FrontPoint is your clear choice. And then you can leave the hard work to us – and the police.