ST. CHARLES, Mo. – Police said a man took justice into his own hands after someone stole his car. But he may have gone too far, when he shot the suspected thief.
The 25-year-old car owner said a 41-year-old man stole his car in the 5000 block of O’Fallon Lake Drive at an apartment complex in O'Fallon. The 25-year-old used a GPS tracking device to locate his car. He found it in the 800 block of S. Sixth Street more than 15 miles away in St. Charles.
When he confronted the 41-year-old man he said stole his car, the car owner shot him. The 25-year-old said he believed the accused car thief was armed and he acted out of self-defense. Soon after, the man with the gunshot wound stumbled around, knocking on doors to ask for help, while the car owner stayed to call police. The raucous startled residents in the area.
"It sounded like someone was trying to break in,” said Nicholas Chrismer, who lives on the street where the shooting happened.
St. Charles County police are investigating the “validity” of that claim. Investigators said they did not find a gun on the 41-year-old man. A witness who saw the suspected car thief in handcuffs said he saw “a knife and syringe” emptied from his pockets.
Police said the 41-year-old man is in the hospital and is listed in stable condition. He was struck in the shoulder.
There have been no charges filed in the case. If any charges are filed, they will be released “sometime next week,” police said. The investigation is ongoing.
"It wasn't time to play around, it was like get inside the house,” said Tommy Atkinson, who saw the suspected car thief.
He was nervous and scared for his wife and four children.
"I didn't know if he had a gun,” he said.
That’s because Atkinson said he had just heard about six gunshots. He called 911 as he was looking through his front door to see what was going on.
"I saw him walk down the sidewalk kind of laydown on the street corner against the post,” he said.
The man with the gunshot wound was lying right in front of his house, after knocking on doors asking people for help. Eventually, he lied down on Atkinson’s neighbor’s front porch. Atkinson was shocked to learn the man had been shot.
"Immediately my heart sank," he said. "this is not something you see every day."
The shooting happened in front of Nicholas Chrismer's house. The suspected car thief knocked on residents’ doors, including his. Chrismer said it sounded like the man was trying to break into his house. He didn’t know what was going on.
"You're worried for your safety,” he said. You're worried for other people's safety."
If everything is true, Atkinson still doesn't believe the guy should have been shot. He said he didn’t deserve that. But, he also doesn’t believe anyone should steal a car either.
"If you're doing bad stuff and something bad happens to you, there is really nobody to blame but yourself at that point," he said.