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Intruder self-defense Champaign

A recent story about the death of a homeless man in Champaign, Illinois brought back memories for me. The man had died, the report said, “after being subdued by police.”

Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup said Mr. Turner’s cause of death was an irregular heartbeat due to an enlarged heart and an enlarged left ventricle from high blood pressure. Northrup said other “significant conditions contributing to death but not related to the cause” were cocaine abuse, obesity, schizophrenia and “physical and mental stress during restraint by law enforcement.” An autopsy showed no signs of trauma, and Northrup listed the manner of death as accidental.

I had run across Richard Turner (above left) myself, in an earlier chapter of my life. Back then, as a would-be home invader, he made quite an impression on me. The experience rattled me to my core, and at the same time reaffirmed my determination to carry a firearm with me every day. And night.

Roughly twelve-plus years ago, our paths crossed while I spent the night at my then-girlfriend’s house. While I didn’t know the guy, at a glance I could see that he was big, imposing and no doubt quite strong. Furthermore, I recognized pretty quickly that he wasn’t operating with a full Happy Meal upstairs. In the end, a few days later, the police hauled the would-be home intruder off to jail when he returned once more.

Here’s what happened….

Miss Tia would eventually become my (first) wife, but at the time I had just started dating her. Friends called her “Tia the Magnificent” for her poise, beauty, physical strength…and fortitude for putting up with me. For better or worse, she lived in one of those fringe neighborhoods near the local ghetto.

The neighborhood’s claim to fame? It stood as the first African-American neighborhood Champaign, Illinois. My then-girlfriend was an African-American…and still is, for that matter. Her dad was career Air Force and her mom worked for the local library system.

Tia owned Lily, a kind of black lab with lot of pit bull thrown into the mix. The dog loved me as much as she loved Tia.

Anyway, we had retired to bed on a cooler summer night. With the air conditioner off and windows open to facilitate a nice breeze, we slept soundly. Suddenly, the dog’s “stranger bark” jarred us from a deep sleep. We heard nothing at first, but the dog had left her spot at the foot of the bed and now snarled in the living room. Clearly, something had alarmed the dog.

At first, I thought there might be an intruder. I grabbed my Kel-Tec P-11 from my fanny pack and loaded it. Forgoing clothes, I grabbed my flashlight. Then I cautiously started down the dark hallway towards the living room.


The doorbell startled me. “What the hell is this?” I thought to myself. The digital clock read 11:40, but it felt like about 3:00am, we were sleeping so soundly. I looked out from the hallway towards where Lily snarled and barked viciously at the bay window.Β  Sure enough, a guy I didn’t know stood outside the front door.

“What do you want?” I said in a command voice before moving to change my position in the room.

“Is Tia home?” the guy asked.

“Who are you?” I yelled back at him, hoping he could hear me over the dog. Anyone who really knew Tia would have called before dropping by at this relatively unChristian hour.

“It’s her Uncle Rick,” he said. Or something like that. I couldn’t quite hear him over Lily’s incessant snarling and barking.

Tia and I had been dating for a couple of months at the time. I’d met most of her family and I hadn’t met an Uncle Rick.

I glanced over and saw my lovely girlfriend holding a S&W Model 19 and a flashlight, peering around the corner. She held the light in a pretty good Harries-type grip while pointing the revolver at low ready towards the floor. Even though she too had skipped formal dress for the occasion, given the circumstances, I paid a lot more attention to the revolver she held in her hands.

To this day, I remember the sense of relief and confidence I felt seeing her with that gun. The sight of her standing there with that gun and the knowledge, skills and attitude needed to use it calmed me. I knew I had backup if this went south. Β That bit of knowledge felt priceless at the time.

“Sir, you need to go,” I shouted over the snarling dog. “I’ve never heard of you and she’s not available.”

The guy took a couple of steps over to the open bay window right in front of me, reaching out and touching the screen. The dog saw him come toward the window and she about lost it. I tried to pull her back, afraid she would jump through the screen, grab the guy by the throat and chew him up.

The man, though, acted as if he didn’t even hear the dog. I had to shout at the top of my lungs over Lily’s snarling and barking. “GET BACK!” I screamed at him.

He ignored me and the dog. He calmly and deliberately ran his fingertips around about a third of the perimeter of the screen. The man’s face looked mere inches away from the screen. As I watched, I knew he was contemplating how much (or little) trouble it would be to come on through and let himself inside.

At that point, I let go of the dog. She snarled at him as if possessed by Satan himself. Taking about two or three steps back, I raised my Kel Tec and readied the flashlight. In my mind, I decided that if he started coming through that screen, I’d light him up with the bright LED flashlight and give him one last verbal warning. If he did anything other than to stop or retreat, I would have to shoot. I had ten rounds of standard pressure 9mm Federal 115gr JHPs in my pistol.

I felt way undergunned.

I repeated told him to go away. Turning to Tia, I told her to call 9-1-1. She disappeared back into the bedroom toward the phone.

And a few moments later, “Uncle Rick” simply shuffled off into the darkness.

Four days later, before sunset, he returned. Tia, home alone, was relaxing while reading a book one evening after work. She heard someone shuffling up to the door and the dog heard it, too. Lily resumed her snarling bark and Tia later told me she instantly suspected that the same guy had returned. She described the “freeze” she felt at that moment.

Sure enough, Uncle Rick was back. This time he skipped the doorbell.

He opened her screen door and tried to open the door. Thankfully, Tia had it locked as she usually did. She usually locked the screen door too, but not this time. She yelled out a challenge, asking who was there. “It’s your Uncle Rick. Let me in, sweetie!”

She heard the door creak and groan as the would-be intruder put his shoulder into it.

As she told me later, she screamed and ran for her gun. She got the revolver and the phone and retreated to the bathroom, calling 9-1-1. After giving her particulars to the dispatcher, she issued the commands we had taught her in the NRA Personal Protection in the Home course. “Intruder. You’re in my home. I’ve called the police. I am armed. If you come in here, I’ll shoot. LEAVE NOW!”

She heard some sirens in the distance, but nothing close by. To her terror, she heard Uncle Rick trying to force the front door again. This time he didn’t ask quite so nicely.

“Open the door, bitch!”

The dispatcher told her that police had arrived and not to come out with her gun no matter what. Yes, the cops had arrived less than a minute later. Probably a benefit of living near the ‘hood.

The first two officers made contact with Uncle Rick and the fight was on. She could hear the struggle and in the middle of it one of the cops said, “We need help.” “Uncle Rick” proved to be much more than a handful.

Tia said she heard one helluva commotion outside from the open bathroom window. Right away, she heard more sirens racing towards her place and even some squealing tires. Before it was over, it took at least five or six cops to dogpile Uncle Rick into submission.

She called me at that point and I hauled ass to her place.

A little over ten minutes later, I pulled up and noticed a squad car rocking violently. Turns out Uncle Rick wasn’t happy about sitting in the back of a squad car all cuffed up. Easily a half-dozen cops milled around, and still more were inside talking with Tia and getting her information.

In the end, the cops shared the guy’s name, Richard Turner. Doing my own research, I found out he had been on probation from an earlier case. So I called a contact in the probation department and brought them up to speed. My contact told me the judge wouldn’t “violate” him just for this incident, but in the end, he didn’t make bail for a while. Sadly, because he didn’t actually enter Tia’s home, the cops could only level minor charges against him.

As they drove him away, Tia told me she recognized him as a homeless guy who had come around the previous week or so. The first time, he asked her for a smoke and she gave him one. He came back a couple more times and not wanting to upset the big guy, she gave him a smoke each time. She said he made her feel uncomfortable with the way he looked at her.

You give a mouse a cookie and pretty soon he wants a tall glass of milk. There were plenty of lessons learned in this experience for both of us. Imagine what would have happened if this guy had made it past the front door. Neither she nor I could have handled him without a (serious) firearm or two. Additionally, Tia learned how helping the homeless, while well-intentioned, can lead to bad things. I moved up to a GLOCK 19 and brought a shotgun with me when I spent the night.

Uncle Rick stood about 6’4″ and weighed close to three bills. He looked like an NFL linebacker. For me, that little Kel-tec didn’t inspire a lot of confidence that it could put a big guy like that down. Especially a mentally deranged monster who really didn’t want to go down.

In the end, I was reasonably assured that no matter how agitated Uncle Rick became, a load of buckshot to the chest would reduce his ability to hurt my girlfriend or me.



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  1. I work at the U of I and saw him almost daily. He was a constant panhandler. He had a habit of violating ones personal space and was a very large man. The newspaper article quoted people saying he was a kind and gentle man but I am glad I don’t have to walk by him anymore. Now they need to run the other permanent homeless residents on Green street.

      • Nobody is referred to as a, “gentle giant,” until there is a good reason to view him otherwise.

        I am about the same size as that guy, amd nobody (to the best of my knowledge) has ever referred to me as a gentle giant. Maybe it is because I am not a violent guy?

        • If you read the Champain News-Gazette article and comments you would know what I was referring to.

          Also that young scholar and future Nobel winner from Frrguson, Mo Michael Brown was also referred to as that.

  2. Oh man, what a nightmare! I used to be nursing supervisor for hospice. One of my nurses was robbed, mugged in the parking lot. Full daylight, lots of other people around. A true nutcase. Turns out she’d been giving some of the homeless, local derelicts, a few coins sometimes and had even bought this mugger a hamburger once. She recovered, but went to work somewhere else – for all the good that did. I tried to make very sure the rest of my staff knew better than to encourage these folks, and we had some interesting conversations about self defense in general. Oh, and that was 13 years ago! I’m sure it is much worse in many places now.

    Naturally, none of us were “allowed” to have so much as a long stick with which to defend ourselves. We practiced with umbrellas… and a few other things. πŸ™‚

  3. Didn’t we cover this last week

    RE: “handgun loads for bears”?

    Having an aggressive nanna dog sure helps….

  4. Easily your best post yet Boch! Right up there with “outing” Springfield. I too have lots of experience with crazies. Besides working in the nuthouse a lifetime ago I lived in Chicago(and continued to do business in) for 6years. No good deed goes unpunished. I’ve had l lunatics try to follow me into my locked apartment building,scream at me for not “loaning” them $ and attacked on the “EL”. No gun then either. Oh-once you go blackπŸ˜†πŸ˜†πŸ˜†

  5. By the way John, that would be a “pig pile”. We used to call them that in a self deprecating kind of way. I was in my fair share.

  6. Excellent post, John! Makes me want to get my old P-11 out of the safe and talk to it a little about the old days when it was my first 9mm.

  7. I suppose it bears repeating: all handguns are “underpowered” and inadequate for promptly stopping a large crazy/drug-addled attacker unless you can put a bullet into their central nervous system. That is a great reason to keep something with more oomph available.

    Of course if all you have is a handgun to stop such an attacker, you do your best with what you have on hand. If such an attacker is going to take you down in spite of being armed, at least make sure that he won’t do it to anyone else.*

    * While your average handgun may not promptly stop a large and crazy/drug-addled attacker, multiple gunshot wounds anywhere near the middle of his torso should ensure that the attacker eventually ends up captured or dead — assuming that you have decent self-defense ammunition.

  8. So he was going to keep escalating till he killed somebody or died…. Sounds like things worked out as well as possible under the circumstances. Yes, it’s sad when someone dies. But we have to accept that there are broken people in the world that we can’t fix. Do we stop them from ruining other lives along with their own?

  9. Very enlightening, if somewhat scary, story. Thanks for sharing it.

    “I grabbed my Kel-Tec P-11 from my fanny pack and loaded it.”

    Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the most embarrassing sentence in the English language. πŸ˜‰

    • Yeah, anything that involves the words “fanny pack” is a laugh, but Mr. Boch used it for years as a workaround to carry a weapon when Illinois refused to issue carry permits.

      And I love the Guns Save Life signs along I-55 on my way to STL. Reminds me I’m not alone.

    • I was going to crack about that, too.

      Reminds me of back in the early ’90s when Utah went with concealed-carry, and suddenly there were all these goofy middle-aged-to-old dudes wearing fanny packs everywhere. (At the time I wasn’t aware of CCW laws and methods…just the fanny packs.)

      Fortunately I’m on the large and intimidating side of the male size spectrum, and that has sufficed in the few sketchy encounters I’ve had. Scared an aggressive panhandler away from my daughter last time I was in Seattle just by getting a bit pissed off and using my don’t-make-me-hurt-you voice (a half-hour later I saw him being handcuffed). But you just never know when somebody will be crazy enough to be deadly, so I’m not placing all my marbles in that basket.

      If a fanny pack is the best basket for your marbles, I won’t judge. Much. πŸ™‚

  10. Great story ! Glad you and Tia are safe and living happily ever after. A lot to learn from your experience. Thanks for sharing !

  11. You had my full attention at “naked women with a gun”. Uncle Rick’s? We got them crazy bastards all over the bay area. Nothing new or exciting there.

    • “… naked woman with a gun…”
      Not just any gun.
      The Model 19 is the quintessential sexy handgun.

      Hmm, Seems I have misplaced my priorities.

  12. Thanks John for another interesting and informative article, glad you and Tia were not harmed. I wait patiently for every issue of “Gun News” to arrive and read everything in it. Proud to be a member of GSL and attend the awesome meetings too.

  13. Interesting story – glad you and the Mrs. are OK. However, that guy looks more like a tall fat guy than a linebacker. Maybe 12 years ago he was built differently.

  14. Good story, but what would make it better is a photo of Tia back in the day holding the Smith and Wesson, not necessarily as she stood that night. πŸ˜‰

  15. a cautionary tale against the hazards of smoking like no other! πŸ™‚

    “sorry, I dont smoke” “sorry, i don’t use cash”

  16. Thank you for the story. I’m happy both that you and your girlfriend were ready to defend yourselves and also that you didn’t have to. Thank God for locked doors, alert dogs, and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms!

  17. FYI: “This Story would be illegal in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts…And most likely, the local, left-wing police department would charge you for taking the law into your own hands, unsafe firearms storage, harassing the mentally ill/drug addled, and NOT calling the local pd soon enough to transfer the disadvantaged MA. citizen to his local PIP Shelter !!! “

  18. I don’t care who they are or what drugs they are on– if they get shot in the head, they are going down– even if with “only” a “lowly” 22LR. Center-of-mass shooting is for cops– ordinary people will have more luck with giving them a lead-injection in the cranium… My EDC is 9mm, loaded with Federal HTC in 147g JHP. .38″ going in, .64″ going out– (carrying a LOT of grey brain matter with it). Don’t mess around– train yourself to shoot for the head– anyone can buy a vest these days.

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