Burglary a dangerous profession in Texas
The cha-chick of a shell entering a shotgun's chamber rattled through the 911 line just before Joe Horn stepped out his front door.There will be little to no sympathy for the burglars by a Texas jury. Pasadena is nothing like the community in California with the same name where the Rose Bowl takes place. It is a heavily industrialized area along the Houston ship channel with several refineries. It is mostly a blue collar neighborhood. Obviously many have a low tolerance for criminal activity. It is a place where if you are caught doing a burglary you could get the death penalty on the spot.
Horn, 61, had phoned police when he saw two men break into his neighbor's suburban Houston home through a window in broad daylight. Now they were getting away with a bag of loot.
"Don't go outside the house," the 911 operator pleaded. "You're going to get yourself shot if you go outside that house with a gun. I don't care what you think."
"You want to make a bet?" Horn answered. "I'm going to kill them."
Admirers, including several of his neighbors, say Horn is a hero for killing the burglars, protecting his neighborhood and sending a message to would-be criminals. Critics call him a loose cannon. His attorney says Horn just feared for his life.
Prosecuting Horn could prove difficult in, where few people sympathize with criminals and many have an almost religious belief in the right to self-defense. The case could test the state's self-defense laws, which allow people to use deadly force in certain situations to protect themselves, their property and their neighbors' property.
Horn was home in Pasadena, about 15 miles southeast of Houston, on Nov. 14 when he heard glass breaking, said his attorney, Tom Lambright. He looked out the window and saw 38-year-old Miguel Antonio DeJesus and 30-year-old Diego Ortiz using a crowbar to break out the rest of the glass.
He grabbed a 12-gauge shotgun and called 911, Lambright said.
"Uh, I've got a shotgun," he told the dispatcher. "Uh, do you want me to stop them?"
"Nope, don't do that," the dispatcher responded. "Ain't no property worth shooting somebody over, OK?"
Horn and the dispatcher spoke for several minutes, during which Horn pleaded with the dispatcher to someone to catch the men and vowed not to let them escape. Over and over, the dispatcher told him to stay inside. Horn repeatedly said he couldn't.
When the men crawled back out the window carrying a bag, Horn began to sound increasingly frantic.
"Well, here it goes, buddy," Horn said as a shell clicked into the chamber. "You hear the shotgun clicking, and I'm going."
A few seconds passed.
"Move," Horn can be heard saying on the tape. "You're dead."
Horn redialed 911 and told the dispatcher what he'd done.