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Resident shoots and kills intruder

Originally ran here as:
"Resident shoots and kills intruder"
by Ty Phillips, Staff Writer
The Modesto Bee
February 5, 2002

MODESTO, CALIFORNIA -- A homeowner shot and killed a man Monday night during an attempted home-invasion robbery in northwest Modesto, police said.

The shooting happened at about 7 p.m. shortly after two armed men broke into a house in the 1900 block of Debonaire Drive, police spokesman Doug Ridenour said.

Two people, identified only as a couple in their 50s, were sitting in their living room at the time of the break-in. The front door was unlocked.

"The homeowners said they were completely startled," Ridenour said. "The two men busted into the house asking for the stash. They kept asking where the stash was."

One of the intruders, who was armed with a pistol, grabbed the woman and took her to the back of the home, Ridenour said. The other attacker, armed with an assault rifle, stayed in the front room with the other homeowner.

The husband later told police he heard his wife screaming and yelling from a back room. At some point, he got a chance to grab his shotgun, which was nearby, Ridenour said.

He fired one blast that hit one of the intruders in the throat, Ridenour said. The man, described as being in his 20s, was pronounced dead by the first paramedics who arrived.

After the shooting, the other intruder ran out of the house. Neighbors said they heard tires squealing, but police were uncertain if the man fled on foot or in a car.

Police immediately closed off neighboring streets and began searching for the attacker.

But the attacker hadn't been found late Monday. He is described as a thin, light-skinned black man in his 20s who is about 5 feet 8 inches tall. He was wearing black pants and a black sweat shirt.

Meanwhile, neighbors who live along Hunt Avenue and Debonaire huddled in small groups just outside the yellow crime tape. Some people mentioned rumors about late-night traffic and constant visitors at the home, but others said they hadn't noticed anything like that.

Ridenour said investigators had found a small amount of marijuana in the house, but said "at this point there's nothing to lead us to believe they're anything but innocent homeowners."

By 9 p.m., neighbors Teresa Casler, 52, and Rhonda Shafer, 36, watched from afar as detectives moved about.

Shafer said her sons had been riding bicycles around the block a half-hour before the shooting.

"This whole neighborhood is full of children," Shafer said. "What if my kids were riding in front of that house when there was a guy running around with an AK-47? That's scary."

Casler said she was listening to the scanner when the events began to unfold. She came outside to watch the action, but she expressed little sympathy for the man lying dead half a block away.

"I'm glad they got him, I really am," Casler said. "Maybe it will teach some of these little punks a lesson."

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call Modesto police detectives at 572-9551.

Related Story

Originally ran here as:
"Invasion death investigated"
by Ty Phillips, Staff Writer
The Modesto Bee
February 6, 2002

Thomas Hill could hear his wife screaming from a back bedroom.

But there was little he could do with a semiautomatic rifle pointed squarely at his chest, Detective Denis Holmes said.

So Hill waited, hoping for an opportunity. Moments later, the gunman's accomplice walked from the back into the living room.

The gunman took his eyes off Hill for a second.

And that was all the time Hill needed. In one swift motion, he reached toward a wall, grabbed a loaded shotgun that neither intruder had seen, racked it and fired.

The shotgun blast struck 22-year-old Gerald DeCuir in the throat, killing him almost instantly. DeCuir's friend, identified by police as Jonathan Alexander Moore, ran out of the house and last was seen hopping a neighbor's fence.

The fatal blast foiled a home invasion robbery that took place shortly after 7 p.m. Monday in the 1900 block of Debonaire Avenue in northwest Modesto. DeCuir and Moore, who are from the same neighborhood, broke in through an unlocked front screen door and demanded "the stash."

Hill tossed a small container of marijuana at DeCuir. Police said the men apparently expected the Hills to have money and more drugs, but they were mistaken.

Hill and his wife, Tammi, neither of whom was injured, allowed police to search their home, and officers found only a small amount of marijuana.

Police also said Tuesday that the shotgun, which Hill said had been propped against the wall for five years, may have saved the Hills' lives.

"We don't know how this would have ended," Detective Sgt. Al Carter said. "These guys broke in wearing no masks in a neighborhood they lived in. There's an indication that they might have killed these people."

That was little consolation to the Hills, who investigators said were extremely distraught following the shooting.

"To say they were brokenhearted would be putting it mildly," Holmes said. "Before and after our interviews, both of them broke down in tears. He was very remorseful that he had killed somebody. We tried to explain to him that he was defending his home."

Holmes said he does not expect that any charges will be filed against Hill.

DeCuir's friends had trouble believing what had happened.

"What he did was wrong," said Latoya Sheppard, a 19-year-old Modesto resident who knew DeCuir five years. "I don't know what he was thinking, but he genuinely was a good person. He always made everybody around him feel good."

Thomas Hill told investigators that he grabbed his shotgun because he thought the two intruders were going to kill his wife, Holmes said.

DeCuir chambered a round in his own weapon as he entered the residence, immediately pointing the weapon at Hill. Police later found the rifle carried 28 rounds of ammunition, Holmes said.

Detectives spent Tuesday searching for Moore, who splits his time between Modesto and East Palo Alto. One tip led investigators to a room at the Tropics Motel on McHenry Avenue, but Moore was not there.

He is described as a 19-year-old African-American, 5-foot-8 and 140 pounds. He has black hair and dark-colored eyes and was wearing his hair in braids. He is possibly driving a four-door burgundy Nissan Maxima or a Buick Regal with a California license plate of 4NSV792.

Anyone with information about the shooting or Moore's whereabouts is asked to call Detective Al Brocchini, 572-9572.

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