A man outside his south-side home almost became a robbery victim Saturday night, but rather than surrender, he pulled out his handgun and fatally shot one of his attackers, Fort Wayne police said.
The man was on or near the front steps of 710 W. Packard Ave., the apartment house where he lives, when two men approached him. The pair tried to rob him, and he responded by shooting one of them several times, said Sgt. Mark Brooks, a police spokesman.
The other would-be robber was not shot, and he ran north through the neighborhood. On Sunday evening, he was still at large, Brooks said.
The man who opened fire immediately called police to report what had happened. Officers and medics arrived about 11 p.m. at the apartment house at West Packard and South Wayne avenues, and the man with gunshot wounds was declared dead. Near his body, investigators found a weapon, but Brooks declined to say what type of weapon.
The man who drew his gun received a minor gunshot wound to his foot during his encounter with the two assailants. He was treated at a hospital and released, police said.
Brooks said the shooting appears to have occurred the way the man and witnesses reported it to police. And while the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office will decide whether the shooting was in self-defense, the sergeant said it appears some of the criteria for such a classification were met.
“If someone tried to rob you on your front porch … you could be justified in using force to protect yourself, including deadly force,” he said.
The names of the man who fired the shots and the man killed were not released. Police do not believe the shooter knew either attacker, and at this point, the robbery attempt appears to be a random “crime of opportunity,” Brooks said. “They saw a guy in front of his house, so they approached.”
Blake Stoneman, who lives in the apartment house, said he heard the gunshots Saturday night followed by screaming. He went outside to make sure his girlfriend, who had gone out for fast food, was not caught in the crossfire. She was not around, but his neighbor was.
Stoneman, 21, said his neighbor told him he had just killed a man to protect himself.
“He wouldn’t hurt a fly unprovoked,” Stoneman said of his neighbor. “So it was definitely in self-defense.”
His neighbor, who was going to grab a phone to call 911, asked him to keep an eye on the wounded man lying nearby.
“He was like, ‘Make sure that this guy doesn’t try to get up and get away,’ ” Stoneman said.
But the job was already done.
“He was pretty lifeless, pretty motionless, didn’t move at all,” Stoneman said. Emergency workers “pretty much gave up on him as soon as they got here.”
Stoneman said the experience has him and his girlfriend thinking about moving. For others in the four-unit apartment house, the decision to pack up and leave has already been made.
Tyler Junk and his fiancée moved out Sunday afternoon specifically because of the Saturday night shooting. With help from a handful of relatives, they backed a pickup truck and trailer onto the lawn and loaded their belongings. They planned to move in with the father of Junk’s fiancée.
Junk, who would often relax on the front steps of the apartment house, said that after what happened to his neighbor, he worried the same could happen to him.
“I carry a gun myself, and if it was me, I’d have done the same thing,” the 21-year-old said.
Junk was not home when the shooting took place, but by speaking with the neighbor involved, he learned that the man and one of the assailants got into a struggle on the ground. The assailant was hitting the man on the head, and when the man called for help, the assailant tried to cover his mouth. With a free hand, the man grabbed his .40-caliber pistol and shot the assailant four times, Junk said.
Brooks could not confirm that account. People who answered the door at the apartment of the man involved declined to comment.