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92 year-old shoots police officer as he was making forced entry into her Toledo home after responding to her 911 call
by Chad D. Baus
The recent shooting of a police officer in Toledo is prompting interesting discussions about the Second Amendment rights of elderly citizens, confiscation of firearms by police, and even Ohio's Castle Doctrine law.
92 year-old Annie Huddleston's home is in a neighborhood that is riddled with crime - the sounds of gun shots can be heard regularly, streets are lined with overgrown fields, piles of garbage and vacant homes. Her home has been broken into at least once, and just after midnight on Thursday July 5, Ms. Huddleston feared it was happening again.
At about 12:30 a.m., Ms. Huddleston dialed 911 after hearing what she thought was a burglar trying to break into her house.
The Toledo Blade picks up the story from there:
When dispatchers put the call out to police crews, the lieutenant was already nearby, patrolling at Woodland and Junction avenues, and routed himself to the home.
After doing a perimeter check and finding no signs of anyone trying to break in and after trying to contact Ms. Huddleston with no response, the lieutenant sent other officers to the back of the house while he forced entry.
...Ms. Huddleston thought the man outside prying open her front door lock...was a burglar.
Just as Lieutenant [Randy] Pepitone was opening the door, Ms. Huddleston, 92, steadied in her hand her late husband's .357 Magnum revolver, and pulled the trigger just once.
The bullet blasted through a wall hitting the 54-year-old lieutenant in the side of the head.
"All of a sudden there was a loud explosion right next to my ear and I went down," the lieutenant said. "I could taste the blood, I saw it dripping on the porch, and then saw the bullet hole."
The lieutenant said he knew the wound was superficial so he crawled across the porch and jumped over the railing where he was treated by firefighters already on scene.
The crew took Lieutenant Pepitone to Toledo Hospital where he was treated and released.
"It was a little intense at first," the lieutenant told later. "I didn't know if a bad guy had broken in and was firing at us."
The article does not explain why the 911 dispatcher did not stay on the phone with the elderly homeowner, but this incident is a perfect example of why it is important to stay on the line with the dispatcher until police have arrived. An open line of communication between Ms. Huddleston and the responding officers outside her home could have prevented this incident altogether.
This is also a healthy reminder that it is extremely important that the gun owner always know his or her target and what is beyond it.
According to the article, Ms. Huddleston is not going to be be charged for the incident. Her gun, however, has been confiscated, and The Blade reports that police records show this isn't the first time. In 2006, a gun belonging to her late husband was taken from the residence, though the article doesn't provide any details as to why.
From a follow-up article on this incident, entitled "Indiana Ave. residents: Gunfire quite common:"
A search of Blade archives shows that Ms. Huddleston's home has been broken into at least once. In 2006, a gun belonging to her late husband was taken from the residence.
On Thursday, when a Blade reporter went to Ms. Huddleston's home for an arranged interview, she called 911 to say someone claiming to be from the newspaper was at her door, Sgt. Joe Heffernan said.
The Toledo Police Department's records office did not respond to a request for police reports of crime on Indiana.
The crime log compiled by The Blade based on daily reports provided by the department shows that, several break-ins, robberies, and at least one shooting have occurred on Indiana this year.
Mr. Smith -- whose house has been broken into before -- said he doesn't blame Ms. Huddleston for having a gun, especially living where they do.
"That's how it is," he said. "These young kids, I'm scared of them. They have no respect."
..."Our problem is the gangs," Patty Watkins, 51, said.
She, like others, was surprised to hear about the shooting, but can understand why Ms. Huddleston was scared.
"That old lady did think it was an intruder," she said. "They got these people wearing police shirts and breaking into homes and robbing them. You don't know who's real. This world is corrupted."
Police confiscated Ms. Huddleston's .357 Magnum revolver and, as of Friday, it was still locked up in the department's property room.
It's unknown if the gun will be returned to Ms. Huddleston, Sergeant Heffernan said.
Linda Walker, the central Ohio chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association, said Ms. Huddleston has the law on her side in this situation, and the police are legally required to return her firearm if they do not intend to charge her with a crime.
"In the U.S., you can't confiscate someone's legally owned firearm without having, first and foremost, been arrested and then convicted of something," Ms. Walker said.
Because Ms. Huddleston did not recognize a police officer at her door, and thought she was firing at a burglar, Ms. Walker said police need to return the gun.
"As long as she doesn't have a felony background, then she's a law-abiding citizen, and they've got to return her firearm to her if she wants it," Ms. Walker said.
As one would expect, Toby Hoover, director of the Toledo-based Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, disagrees.
"I'm glad they took it away," Ms. Hoover said. "She's either going to hurt herself or hurt someone else."
Ms. Hoover said the police should not return Ms. Huddleston's gun to her regardless of whether her fears are founded.
"We have to get past this point where everyone is capable, and everyone ought to have a gun in their hands because they're afraid of something," she said. "I don't think you can argue about people's fears because people are afraid, but I think it gets perpetuated. It is this whole false sense of security that they can defend themselves with a gun."
It bears noting that Hoover's Perryburg home is situated in a much different neighborhood than Ms. Huddleston's, and her assertions that Huddleston's fears are somehow being wrongly "perpetuated" are misguided (to put it nicely).
Leaving aside the more ignorant portions of Hoover's comments, however, this incident provokes other questions. Do the Second Amendment rights of Americans expire at a certain age? Should police return Ms. Huddleston's gun(s)? Does Ohio's Castle Doctrine law, which provides the presumption of innocence when someone has unlawfully entered or is in the process of entering your occupied residence, play into this case?
Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.