..Lorna Hartman..

This month's alert citizens basically just gave the criminals enough rope to hang themselves. And hang themselves they did. Read the following accounts of folks who should have spent their time planning the Crime of the Century before trying to commit it--and the good citizens who were prepared when opportunity knocked.

Gotta Match?
Birmingham, Alabama--Capt. Mike Coppage told of a strange domestic violence call that came in from a frantic woman. It seems she and her husband had been having quite a bit of trouble lately, and things had escalated to the point that her husband was now threatening to kill himself and her.

Police units and a S.W.A.T. team were immediately dispatched to the address, where they heard shouts and threats coming from inside the house. "I'll do it! Don't think I won't...'cause I will. I'll kill myself!" Obviously, things were really getting out of control in there. When the police negotiator got the man on the phone, he and Coppage's crew realized just how bad it was.

"I'm gonna kill myself," the man threatened. "I've doused myself and the house with gasoline, and I'm gonna set myself on fire right now."
"Hey, we can work this out, Ronnie," the negotiator told him. "Come on outside. Let's talk about it."
"There ain't nothin' left to talk about, man. It's over."
Then the man set the phone down. There was an eerie silence.
Captain Coppage and the negotiator looked at each other. It was time to send in the S.W.A.T. team. The captain was about to give the signal to storm the house when suddenly the man was back on the line.
"Hey, y'all still there?" the man asked.
"Yeah, we're here."
"You got any matches?"
"Matches? You want matches?" said the negotiator incredulously.
"Yeah, matches. You know, the kind you light? I can't find any in here."
"Let me look," the quick-thinking negotiator told him. "Yeah, I've got a book of 'em right here, Ronnie, but you're going to have to come out here and get them. I can't come in there."
"All right," Ronnie said. "I'll be right out."
And he was--where he was quickly apprehended.

Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Line of Fire
Pensacola, Florida--It was a moonless, balmy night, and there he was--a criminal fleeing on foot and feeling pretty good about his chances of making the next street and therefore slipping into the anonymous darkness.

Suddenly, behind him, came the screech of tires and the unmistakable flash of a police cruiser's lights. What to do? He knew the neighborhood well, having cased most of the houses during his career.

The next house on the left, he thought. It's just that little old lady living alone. I'll bust in there. She won't be hard to deal with. After the heat's off, I'll help myself to her jewelry box and get out.

He ran to the front porch and heaved himself against the front door. No luck. Again he rammed the door with his shoulder. Again it didn't budge. A step back, a swift kick, and the door finally flew open. He slipped inside the door and closed it.

Did they see me? If they did, I'll just take the old bag hostage.

From the darkened hallway came the distinctive sound of a twelve-gauge, pump-action shotgun being readied for use. A southern lady's delicate voice rose quite calmly from the shadows: "You might have better luck with those policemen outside, young man. If you move anywhere but out that door, I'll just have to blow your head off."

The patrolman who had seen the idiot burglar-to-be enter the house reported that his exit was much faster than his entrance--and that he seemed relieved to see three policemen there to save him.

* * *

From "Wanted! Dumb or Alive" by Daniel Butler and Alan Ray and used by permission of Rutledge Hill Press, Nashville, Tennessee.

If you have a similar story of preventing crime or helping to capture a criminal, or know someone else who does, contact Lorna Hartman.

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