Thursday, May 14, 2009

Texas: Armed citizen takes out tires as shoplifters flee

Azle, Texas

From the Azle News Online of May 9, 2009
Armed citizen takes out tires as shoplifters flee

A citizen with a “concealed-carry” handgun license shot out a tire on a car full of fleeing shoplifters, then followed them in his own vehicle Wednesday morning, helping Azle police apprehend four people who were subsequently charged with robbery.

Police officers from at least three agencies caught up with everyone in a neighborhood behind Allsup’s convenience store off Highway 199 west of Azle.

Four accused shoplifters had been spotted by employees of Albertsons grocery store and were attempting a getaway with less than $50 worth of miscellaneous items when they were spotted by a citizen in the parking lot. The citizen was carrying a properly licensed concealed weapon, Azle police chief Steve Myers said Wednesday afternoon.

The fleeing driver seemed to be headed straight for the citizen, who fired at the vehicle, striking a front tire.

Another citizen called 911 and reported “an undercover officer shooting at someone who tried to run him down,” Myers said.

That “undercover officer”, it was later discovered, was the armed citizen, Myers said. Both the caller and the “shooter” remained unidentified by police in the interest of their safety.

However, the man with the handgun got in a pickup and followed the suspect vehicle, which could no longer be driven by the time it arrived in the neighborhood, Myers said.

“I guess they thought they could turn off the highway and get lost out in the county,” he said.

However, that area is made up of just a few interconnected streets, with no other way out besides the highway, he said.

Arrested were Michael Reiser, 38, of San Angelo; Kyle Scott, 21 of Fort Worth; Jennifer Jeffrey, 35, of San Angelo; and Tami Mickey, 32, of Fort Worth.

Three of the four were apprehended at the vehicle by Azle police in the 400 block of Oakwood Street. Reiser, the driver, was caught by Azle officer Chris Negrete and a DPS trooper about 30 minutes later in the 1600 block of Willowwood Drive.

Both are off of Pearson Lane, north of the highway.

The four reportedly discarded the shoplifted items as they drove from the scene.

They will be charged with robbery, a felony, instead of shoplifting, a misdemeanor, because the car was used as a deadly weapon in their escape, Myers said.

Albertson’s is in Tarrant County, so charges will be filed with the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office even though the suspects were caught in Parker County. Azle police, Parker County Sheriff’s deputies and at least two Department of Public Safety troopers helped in the chase, Myers said.

The chief has mixed feelings about the help officers received from an armed citizen.

“Our concern in a situation like that is the number of people in the immediate vicinity of an individual who don’t have a way to know who or what he is,” Myers said.

“A uniformed officer is easily identifiable. But the public doesn’t know who (a citizen with a handgun) is, or how to help.”

On the other hand, this particular citizen did choose the most restrained use of his weapon, firing only at the tires of the vehicle and ultimately helping catch a car full of suspects.

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