Updated: May 24, 2020
Friday, January 1, 2010, will forever be a significant date in my life and in the lives of my family. It marked the formal end of my 30 years of service to our United States Marine Corps. It was also a day when my family demonstrated faith, strength, and cool headedness, as we collectively foiled a burglary in progress in our home and apprehended the culpit turning him over to the NYS Police.
It was a typical New Years’ Day, starting with some cleanup from our New Years’ Eve dinner gathering and packing away Christmas decorations. In the early afternoon we then headed down to my wife Diane’s folks’ house for the traditional “pork ‘n sauerkraut” dinner, for prosperity and good luck in the new year. Great dinner. Some luck.
Daughter Holly and I came home ahead of Diane, son Nick and daughter Angie, by about five minutes. As we neared our driveway, there was a Red SUV pulled over alongside the road, maybe 100 yards from our driveway. I steered clear and didn’t think much of it, as there had been hunters’ vehicles pulled over there, calling coyotes, that sort of thing. As I pulled up our drive, Holly asked if I was going to go see if the SUV needed help. I said that I would. After I let Holly out, I backed up and turned to head down the drive and saw the SUV turn its lights on and pull away, going past our drive and on up the road. Again, I didn’t think much of it.
Holly had been in the house for about a minute by this time and had gone upstairs. She had heard some strange noises coming from the end of the hall. I came inside and she met me on the cellar steps, saying there were noises coming from Nick’s bedroom, like there was someone in there. My initial thought was that it was one of Nick’s buddies, all good guys, who had come over while we were gone.
I walked part way down the hall and saw that Nick’s door was closed. The thought of an intruder never even crossed my mind. I half expected one of Nick’s friends to come out and say, “Hey, Colonel, Happy New Year!” Real criminal intruders would never enter my house, out here in the boonies. I had nothing in my hands except 10 knuckles as I went through Nick’s door.
I was shocked to see a 27 year-old (as we later learned) white male standing on Nick’s bed. He appeared to be about 5’-9” and maybe 160 pounds. His left hand was ripping at the window screen, which he had already sliced thru with a knife, and his right hand carried a pistol of some description. He held the pistol back behind his right leg, so I wasn’t able to get a good look at it. His hoodie was pulled up over his head and he had a small brown hand towel across his face, masking his identity.
When I saw that he had a gun, I figured my best course of action was to remain calm and talk calmly, not do or say anything to inflame the situation. My metaphorical fly was totally unzipped at this point. At a clear disadvantage, I opted to go on the offensive, at least verbally.
I asked, “Who in the hell are you and what are you doing in my house?” No response.
Holly apparently realized that it was definitely not one of our family friends and called 911. She remained on the phone with the dispatcher, per 911 SOP, for the next 11 minutes.
I figured if he was going to cap me, he’d have drawn up and fired right then and there. Since the intruder had not raised the weapon, I felt the pendulum swing slightly back in my favor.
“Apparently, you don’t understand English!” I said a little louder, and again asked, “Who are you and what are you doing in my house?”
“I’m lost ….I’ve been wandering …..walking for miles …I was freezing…I just wanted a place to get in out of the cold….and you guys came in …just let me go and you’ll never see me again…..” This punk was scared.
I took a step closer.
“You’re in my house, with a pistol in your hand, a mask over your face, and you’re ripping an escape hole through the window screen, and you expect me to believe you’re cold and a little lost?” I think I was raising my voice. “Why don’t you quit bullshitting me and tell me about your accomplice vehicle that was just down on the other side of my driveway.”
“I don’t know anything about some other vehicle.”
I yelled for Holly to clue in the 911 Dispatcher as to the Red SUV and she accurately described it as a Hummer.
As I engaged him further verbally, he came down off the bed.
“I just want to get out of here…let me go and you’ll never see me again.”
I could then see that the pistol in his hand was one of my son’s Colt .45 Western model 6 shot revolvers. There was no ammo for it, as it is a non-firing replica. The pendulum swung a little more in my favor.
“Sorry, pal, but you’re going down.” I had to stay clear of a pistol-whip swing that could give me a serious headache and stitches if he connected, as it is a full-weight replica. I maintained my blocking position in the doorway not wanting him to bolt past me and escape out thru another door. My whole family was now home.
“Put the gun down and we’ll just sit nice and quiet and wait for the troopers.” I said evenly.
”Dude, You just get out of the way and I’ll get out of here and everything will be fine.” He was fidgeting a lot.
For the record, I hate being called Dude or Hey You or Homeboy. This guy was pissin’ me off. My volume level increased just a little. I think ‘thundered’ would be appropriate here. “You obviously have a serious flippin’ hearing problem. Put the goddam gun down RIGHT NOW, or it’s going to get ugly in a real hurry!”
I became aware that Nick was making his way down the hallway to assist.
The punk got back up on Nick’s bed and was eyeing the slim gap in the already open window. I eyeballed it from my position in the doorway and figured he may be able to wiggle through the operating rods of the awning window and escape. As he appeared to be preparing to make his exit out through it, his focus was not on me, but on the open window itself and how he was going to squeeze out. I made my move to subdue him.
I rushed toward him and he flailed at me with his right arm. I hooked his right arm with my left arm and grabbed a handful of his shirt with my right hand (and a fair amount of his throat). I executed a decent standing barrel roll, with his right-side rib cage bouncing off Nick’s closet door jambs. A quick shifting for position on the floor found me on top of him, he laying on his side, with my forearm securely against the side of his neck.
I was in a state of controlled rage, one that smart medical and therapy folks say is synonymous with combat action. I was focused on one thing: to take this puke apart with my hands.
I applied max force on his neck with the intent of cutting off his air and ultimately choke him out. He squealed, “I think my ribs are broke… I can’t breathe… you’re burying my face in the rug.” Nick was now behind me and he more-or-less called me off, maybe sensing my rage and that I was not far from ending the burglar’s existence. “Give him some air, Dad, we’ve got him, he’s not going anywhere.” Against my better instincts, I got off him.
I called for someone to grab some string or twine or whatever in order to hog-tie this guy. Nick pulled a knife from the burglar’s pocket. I got him to his knees and kept a good choke hold on his hoodie and then pulled him to his feet. The kid continued to maintain his innocence, in that he was merely “lost and was getting in out of the cold.”
“Then why do you have my game boy, a knife, my calculator and screwdriver in your pocket?” asked Nick.
After shaking him down a little more, we also discovered a pot or crack pipe in his pocket. We escorted him firmly down the hall to the kitchen, which was a mistake, as we had not secured his hands or feet at this point.
He pulled a standard ploy, “I think I’m going to be sick…I’m gonna puke.”
Unfortunately, I fell for it. “Not on my floor, you’re not,” I said, dragging him by the neck out the back room and into the snow. I put him on his face in the snow and demanded that he puke- right now. He failed this test and Nick again suggested that we “had him, Dad, he’s not going anywhere.” With that, we let him have his feet. He made a miraculous recovery -- and bolted!
He took off at a sprint, directly to where the Red Hummer had been parked 10 minutes prior (imagine that!), remember that he didn’t know anything about an accomplice vehicle.
I was thankful for Nick’s speed and grit, since I could not run a 10 second flat 100 yard dash at the tender age of 53. Nick caught the intruder from behind, preventing the punk’s touchdown run with a perfect horse collar tackle, and no flag on the play. I have to brag for my boy. At 16 years old then he was an impressive 6’ 3” tall and real lean at 165 pounds, with substantial athletic ability. His old man, the retired Marine, had a replaced hip, a ‘scoped knee, and a rebuilt shoulder, yet was only a few steps behind the more fleet of foot. I ably assisted in neutralizing the suspect (with vigor!) and helped the burglar have a relapse of his earlier respiratory difficulties.
We decided to put him in the garage and drop the doors. The entire time he maintained his innocence and stated that it was in violation of his rights for us to be using his head for bongo drums. I developed a horrific case of selective hearing as I used his face to remove road salt from the back window of our Expedition while Nick worked the electric controls to put the garage doors down.
Holly was still on the phone with 911. She reported that troopers were on the way and should arrive in less than 5 minutes, but that one of the 4 troop cars had slid off the road, somewhere, while enroute. This was causing them to be arriving later than desired.
The captured punk continued to move around inside the garage, jockeying for position in an attempt to find another way to break out. He hit the push button controls to raise the overhead doors but was foiled by Nick. I slipped into the cellar to grab a jacket, for as my adrenaline waned I started to freeze. Holly confirmed that the troopers were due on site momentarily. I decided to go out into the driveway to meet them. Another mistake.
I didn’t ask the girls lock the door as I went back out into the garage. I went outside, leaving Nick to guard the pass-thru door AND the button controls AND the inner door from the cellar to the garage. Our perimeter defense was thin.
The intruder went into the cellar in an attempt to get up the stairs past the girls and out the back door again. Holly was still totally focused with the Dispatcher. Nick pursued the punk inside and he herded him back into the garage, when the guy bolted again, getting between Nick and an escape door. Unfortunately, although I was outside the pass-thru door, I was too far away to nail him as he broke outdoors into the driveway at a sprint, this time heading diagonally up through the back yard toward our old chicken coop.
I gave chase but tripped over piled up snow and ice, driving my kneecap into some ice chunks. That was a screamer. I could see Nick closing fast behind the punk. Nick lunged and made a tripping-type tackle, catching the heel of the guy and swatting it hard enough to trip him up, slowing his escape. They both picked themselves up and I joined Nick in the chase. My son caught up to the burglar at the edge of the tree line and took him down, again.
As I got to them, Nick was not feeling any love. He was performing impressive and violent hand and arm movements in perfect rhythm to his verbalizing, “I’m -sick -and –tired -of -this shit -you -son -uv -a -bitch.” Note each word was spoken with those same hand and arm movements finding their destination directly on the intruder’s head and shoulders.
I could have watched Nick beat that dirtbag all day.
Nick didn’t need much help at this point, so I firmly secured the burglar around the neck with his own hoodie. With both his arms doubled up behind him, we escorted the punk from the tree line to the driveway just as the Trooper arrived. He cuffed the very cold and tired intruder, cleared his pockets thoroughly, and stowed him in the car. Nick and I went in to get warm. The Trooper said he’d be in shortly.
Within seconds the Trooper took off. Fast. The phone rang a minute later and I answered it. It was the Dispatcher, telling me that the Trooper was responding to another situation.
“What’s chances it involves a Red Hummer?” I asked with a grin.
“Pretty good,” the Dispatcher replied.
Other Troopers in separate cars arrived within a few minutes. They reported that they had scoped out the roads in the area, and, with the help of a Deputy Sheriff, had come upon the Red Hummer. The driver was the girlfriend of our burglar and her cell phone was open and on her lap.
The first trooper, with our guy still in his radio car, was enroute to that location. He wanted the suspect’s cell phone to marry it up with his accomplice’s cell to prove their collaboration. The sad side of this is that the woman had a very young child in the Hummer with her. They would be charged with child endangerment for this caper and would do time as well. Both were taken into custody and the child was moved to foster care that night.
I gave the Troopers a “nickle tour” and demonstrated the scene that I saw when I opened Nick’s door. They both agreed that the apparent armed intruder would have been shot by LEO if they had opened the door, confirming that I was clearly in the right, and that they really didn’t care if a burglar was a bloody pile of skin and bones when they showed up.
Holly, Nick, and I did our initial depositions, and one of the Troopers was a brother Marine. Turns out he was awarded the N&MC Medal for Heroism for foiling an armed robbery attempt in New Bern when he was stationed at Cherry Point. The perpetrator had a knife at the throat of the cashier of a Mom and Pop store. This Marine-turned-Trooper took that criminal down and probably pounded the snot out of the perp. He was a big boy and told a great story.
Charges would be: 1) Burglary 2) Aggravated assault 3) Criminal mischief (property damage) 4) Child endangerment 5) Criminal possession of a firearm. It didn’t matter that Nick’s pistol was real or not, just he was handling it and appeared to be communicating that it was real.
Legal notes as it was explained. Use of deadly force is authorized inside your home if the homeowner reasonably believes that another person is committing or attempting to commit a burglary; however, if the suspect is outside the house, he is considered fleeing and deadly force is not warranted.
The Troopers also informed us that it was a good bet that several previously unsolved burglaries might now be closed, thanks to this arrest. They acknowledged Holly’s conduct with 911 was textbook and commended us all on our collective performance. And while we might feel like we made some mistakes, the net result is that it all ended up on a positive note.
The troopers suggested that Diane drive me down to the Corning Hospital ER, to get my knee looked at. Once there, the word started getting around to the on-duty staff as to what happened. Many knew Diane since she worked in IT there. There was no shortage of “Atta Boys” from those in the area.
As I waited to be seen, sitting with my leg elevated, Diane asked if I wanted a Coke or Pepsi from the machine. I said I would like one and asked if she had any cash. She stood up, patted her pockets, and then produced a 4 foot piece of baler twine. She asked, “So, do you want the twine now?”
“WHAAAAT?!?!” You might have heard me in Florida.
“Why didn’t you give that to me earlier?” I asked, somewhat less than gently.
Diane replied, “Well, when I saw you dragging that kid down the hallway by the throat, I figured, “Ok, must be Mark has gone to Plan B”.”
Of course, she was right, another outstanding example of communication between husband and wife.
As critical as I am of myself for errors made, the value of the teaching points was huge. Most importantly, my family was safe. And for all of us to experience, first-hand, things that were correct or that could’ve been done differently, has paid off in a good way for all of us.
My level of pride in my family has always been off the meter!
Mark Frampton is a USMC Retired Reserve Colonel of 30+ years with multiple deployments to Middle East. Served as Base Commander at Camp "TQ" (Al Taqaddum, IZ) during 1st "General Election" in Iraq in over 25 years.
Graduate Civil Engineer; Owned/Operated Frampton Construction in upstate NY contracting multi-million dollar bridge, road, and utility projects for 22 years. Mark currently works as an independent consultant in the Heavy Highway industry, with concentrations in municipal catastrophe relief.
Mark invented, patented, designed, and developed for production a softball pitching training aid called "The Pitchers' Plank" with his collegiate All-Star pitcher daughter. Also, nationally certified instructor with Mike Epstein Hitting and produced 4 collegiate All-Americans.
Printed with Mark’s permission.