Irritatingly filed under the heading “Weird News”:
When 12-year-old Juan Carlos Rojas walked into his home on North Park Place at midday Sunday with his father and younger siblings, he saw shattered glass on the floor — and one startled burglar.
The burglar held a VCR and wore Juan’s brother’s sweatshirt and his mom’s yellow jacket.
“I’m sorry,” the burglar said, and ran out the back door.
Juan had failed to make the basketball team at Marshall Middle School. But Sunday, the seventh-grader showed another kind of athleticism.
He ran down and tackled a burglar.
Juan, maybe 5-foot-8, not much over 100 pounds, chased the thief over fences and through a yard with barking pit bulls. (Another shot at pit bulls) He bruised his ribs crashing into a wheelbarrow.
A block away, Juan and his muscular — but slower — father, 38-year-old Juan Rojas, cornered the burglar in a yard.
The younger Juan, who says he had never tackled anyone before, dove into the wiry burglar’s midsection. His father put the man in a head lock. Father and son held the burglar down until police arrived.
Police could not remember another case of a boy bringing down a burglar.
Jermaine A. Garnes — 26 years old, 5-foot-4 and 155 pounds — has been charged with aggravated burglary in the case, according to officials at the Sedgwick County Jail. He is being held on a $10,000 bond. Court records show Garnes has multiple burglary and theft convictions.
The risks involved
Here we go, “You’re not qualified!”
Coming home and encountering a burglar is more common than the public knows, said Wichita police Lt. Barry Von Fange, who supervises burglary investigations.
Often, burglars break in while under the influence of drugs. Many times, they have already been to prison, “and they don’t want to get caught,” Von Fange said.
“You don’t know what their intentions are, either. They could be a rapist.
“Our professional recommendation is that you just pick up the phone and call 911” — after you back out of the house and go quickly to a safe place to make the call, Von Fange said. There could be another burglar in the house.
“The citizen does have a right to make a citizen’s arrest,” he said. “But it’s also very dangerous.”
Yes, it is. But if citizens are not willing to resist crime or, as in the UK, run the risk of prosecution for doing so, then the result is more crime.
‘I’m right behind you’
Juan said he and his father were determined to catch the burglar, who dropped the VCR in the family’s back yard.
The boy felt an adrenaline surge. “I was just trying to get him so he could go to jail,” Juan said, his voice in the midst of change, dropping in pitch, stuck in the transition between boyhood and manhood.
Problem is, he probably won’t. Or at least not for long.
Juan chased the darting, zigzagging burglar over fence after fence.
“I was yelling at him: ‘I’m going to get you.’
“That’s when my dad said, ‘I’m right behind you.’ ”
At one point, Juan and his father lost sight of the burglar, then saw him hiding under a truck. The cornered thief threw the stolen jacket at Juan’s father.
Seconds later, “I went right here, for his stomach,” Juan said, motioning to his midsection.
‘He stole from us!’
About the time Juan was tackling the man, Betty Bartels heard loud, alarmed barks from dogs and saw a struggle in her front yard. Neighbors started gathering.
She saw Juan and his father holding a man down.
“He was so excited. He was out of breath,” she said of the boy, who was trying to explain to a 911 operator over a cell phone what had happened.
Bartels heard the man being held down cry out: “Tell them to let me go. I didn’t do anything!”
But the boy shouted back: “He stole from us!”
“I told them to sit on him and hold his hands down,” she said.
“They were all pretty worn-out. It was quite a jaunt.”
When it was all over, Juan talked with the police officers who answered the 911 dispatch.
“Some of them said ‘good job,’ and some of them were surprised that I was 12 years old.”
I applaud those who said “good job.” I truly believe that the majority of officers on the beat really believe that the citizenry is also responsible for their own protection. It’s only the political appointees and careerists who see citizen involvement as dangerous to their budgets and aspirations.
I’ll say it too: To Juan and his dad, GOOD JOB!