Store owner disrupts burglary

Published 10:52 pm Monday, December 21, 2009

John Butler had a tough decision to make late Friday night. He could shoot and possibly wound a burglar breaking into his property or he could shoot the tires of the alleged burglar’s vehicle.

He decided on the latter, a decision that ultimately may have lead to the burglar’s arrest.

Police allege that around 11 p.m. Matthew Freeman tried to kick in the backdoor of Butler’s property, Butler’s Store on Godwin Boulevard. Butler confronted Freeman and then fired a number of shots from his 9-mm handgun into Freeman’s vehicle as Freeman sped away, according to Butler’s account.

“I live here, and this is my store,” Butler said Monday evening. “If someone comes in here, it’s just the same as someone coming in to my home. My wife was here, in the back room crying. You never know what’s going to happen.”

After the vehicle drove away, complete now with a few holes in one of its wheels, Butler left his apartment, which is located on the back of the store. As he was driving to the police department to give a statement about the incident, he saw the alleged vehicle at the 7-Eleven store on Godwin Boulevard, and he called the police.

Freeman was attempting to change his tire, and he was quickly taken into custody by Suffolk Police.

Butler said Friday’s attempted burglary is the second in the past month. The last time, someone made away with approximately $500 in cash and cigarettes.

On Friday, Butler said, his grandchildren had left the home a short time earlier, and his wife had just finished a shower. He was in the back bathroom, just on the other side of the patio, when he heard the patio door scrape open.

“I yelled ‘Hey!’ but I kept hearing someone out there,” he said.

He said he then heard someone trying to kick in the door, which had been boarded since the first attack.

“[The first burglar] reached through the doggie door on the back door and opened the door like that,” he said. “After that, I put up some 2x4s and some more bracing.”

With his wife just around the corner from the intruder, Butler ran to where she was and grabbed his handgun. The intruder then ran around the building, with Butler in hot pursuit.

At that point, “I had my gun on him. He’s lucky I didn’t shoot him,” Butler said. “I didn’t think it’d have been a good idea, though.”

It was after Freeman climbed in to his vehicle and Butler said he couldn’t tell what he was doing, that he fired into his tires.

“I don’t know what someone is thinking when they do something like this,” he said. “It’s just not right to try to take what someone else is making. It’s hard enough to make anything here.

“I’ll do what I’ve got to do to protect what I got.”