Hot Potatoes and Shotgun Shells
By David Hunter

Long, long ago, in a county far, far away, a man in his early eighties took an old double-barreled 12 gauge shotgun and dispatched a burglar he found robbing his house into the next realm with a load of double 00 buckshot.

Most of the people involved in the case, including the elderly vigilante, have passed away, I'm sure. Just in case there's someone left who was involved, however, we'll maintain the fantasy that it was long, long ago and far, far away -- and I have no first hand knowledge. Just a story someone told me.

After sending the burglar to glory, the old man barricaded himself in the house because of all the flashing lights, blue and red, that had appeared in his yard. He was certain that the police would take him away.

But things were going on behind the scenes. The case was one of those hot potatoes that you really prefer to see someone else handle. The cops knew who the dead burglar was because his two comrades, winged by the old man's second round, had been caught near the house. They were all career criminals, including the departed one -- who was still lying on the grass in front of the house because nobody could get to him without crossing the old man's line of fire.

The patrol supervisor called the chief and the chief called the district attorney. Even in states where shooting criminals is generally thought to be a good thing, the old man had shot a fleeing thief who was legally no threat to him at that precise moment. As law enforcement officers, we all know that the law, in general, frowns upon such severe methods.

Still, faced with the possibility of having to prosecute an old man in an election year for killing a thief who had invaded his house -- or even worse -- of having the police shoot the old man during a siege, the district attorney weighed the options and told the cops to tell the old man he would not be prosecuted or even have to spend the night in jail if he would surrender and give a statement.

Eventually, the old fellow was talked out of the house and a homicide detective sat down to take his statement, with orders from the district attorney to move quickly and get the old guy back home before the morning news broke on television.

The detective turned on his tape recorder and began the interview. "Tell me what happened last night."

"Well, I came in the back door and seen these three men in my living room. And I seen they was the same ones as last time. So I grabbed my shotgun and let'em have it. They all ran out the front door and one of 'em fell down in front of the house."

"What do you mean they were the same ones as the last time?" the detective asked.

"Last week," the elderly man said. "They was the same one's who broke into my house last week."

"Did you file a report?" the detective asked.

"Sure did. Detective Sherlock (we'll call him that) came out and I told him I tried to shoot the varmints then but my gun didn't go off. The shells had turned green because they had been in the drawer so long."

"The shells didn't work. Did you buy some new shells?" the puzzled detective asked.

"Didn't have to. That nice Detective Sherlock went out to his car and come back with a fresh box of shells and told me to load'em in my gun in case the thieves showed up again. And they did."

The detective turned white, I'm told, and scrambled to turn off the recorder. While the public might be sympathetic to the plight of an elderly man who had shot and killed a burglar, he was certain the fact that the burglar had been killed with ammunition furnished by the department would not sit well with the family of the burglar, if word got out.

Taking a deep breath and rewinding the tape, the detective said: "Now, let's go over this one more time. I won't ask you about the ammunition and you won't tell me. Deal?"

"Gotcha," the elderly man said. "I guess you officers ain't supposed to be giving away police ammunition and you don't want to get that nice Detective Sherlock in trouble."

"That's right, Sir. We wouldn't want to get him in trouble."

David Hunter is a retired detective and the author of several books. His e-mail address is: bear33@policeone.com

Or you can visit his web page at CLICK HERE.

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