Alert citizen, armed homeowner help cops nab suspected burglar

Devon L. Smith

The arrest of a Farmersburg man has resolved three Vigo County home burglaries, including one in which a homeowner armed with a handgun interrupted a break-in, police said.

A tip to police about items bought at a yard sale aided in the arrest.

The story also involves an armed homeowner holding an intruder while police were called  — before a tussle led to the homeowner’s gun discharging, without injury. 

The incidents occurred in May in the area of Carlisle Street and Curry Drive south of Terre Haute.

Detective John Newman of the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department arrested 21-year-old Devon L. Smith, who told police that he got into an altercation with the armed homeowner, resulting in the handgun being fired without anyone being injured.

Sheriff Greg Ewing told the Tribune-Star that the break-ins all occurred in the early morning hours, the time when most people are asleep in bed and vulnerable to attack.

“He is the most dangerous type of burglar,” Ewing said of Smith. “He was one foot, but stashing all the stuff he took, at a time when most people are home.”

In fact, a motion detector installed because of prior burglaries is what alerted one homeowner that someone had entered his garage. Ewing said the homeowner carried a loaded handgun with him to the garage, turned on the light, and found a suspect crouched behind a vehicle. The homeowner held the suspect at the scene while police were notified, but the suspect edged close enough to attack the homeowner. After the gun discharged, the suspect ran from the scene.

Ewing said that incident was later connected to two other nearby burglaries of garages. In one incident, a child’s baseball equipment and athletic bag were taken from a garage. In another incident, fishing and camping gear were taken. Those items later ended up in a yard sale of sorts at a Terre Haute house on Fifth Avenue.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed in the arrest of Smith, a 12-year-old boy reportedly bought the stolen equipment, but he and his mother recognized the items as belonging to a boy who played baseball in a league at Riley. The baseball equipment was returned to the owners, and Newman was notified that the items reported stolen had been recovered.

Newman then contacted the people who had bought the baseball equipment, and tracked how the items ended up at the Fifth Avenue home. The trail led back to Smith, who resided with his mother in Farmersburg, police said.

Newman then contacted Sullivan authorities about locating Smith, and found out that Sullivan County authorities also had an active warrant for him alleging failure to appear in court in that county. Smith was located at this residence in Farmersburg and was arrested on the Sullivan County warrant, police said.

In a statement, Smith admitted to breaking into the Vigo County residences as he was walking home late one night, police said. Smith told police that he started checking for open garage doors, and was able to enter three structures. Police report that Smith said he needed money and was going to sell the items that were taken.

Smith was booked into the Vigo County Jail on May 13 on charges of burglary, residential entry, battery and theft, and his bail was set at $35,000 cash. A bond reduction hearing has been set for June 10, with a jury trial date set for Oct. 26.

Trending Video