Dennis Baker's home security system includes three cameras that feed video to 42-inch screens in his living room and bedroom. But it was his pet parrot, he says, that alerted him to a burglar he shot and killed early Tuesday. "Hello, hello," the parrot said, waking Mr. Baker from what he says was a deep sleep.
The 59-year-old locksmith keeps several pet birds in his northwest Dallas home, including a Mexican Red-headed parrot named Salvador. The bird says "hello" whenever he sees someone. When someone passed by a window about 2 a.m., Salvador squawked the greeting. "It woke me up," Mr. Baker said. "I guess you could call him a stool pigeon."
Police say it appears that Mr. Baker was within his rights to shoot the burglar, but as is routine in such cases, they will turn the facts to a grand jury for review. Mr. Baker killed 46-year-old John Woodson, whose criminal record includes charges of burglary, theft and possession of a controlled substance.
Tuesday's burglary, police say, was the fourth on Mr. Baker's property within a month. Investigators say preliminary information indicates Mr. Woodson may have been responsible for some or all of them. Mr. Baker puts the number at five. "I got hit five times this month. I have tools in my garage, my house and my van," Mr. Baker said. "They were coming here like they owned the place. I hate what happened, but somebody has to do what's necessary."
Mr. Baker runs a locksmith shop at the home in the 3600 block of Cortez Drive. A large safe sits on the porch. The door of the detached garage is off its hinges. He plans to fix the doors soon but has to replace some of the wood first. Mr. Baker said he installed a video surveillance system after burglars targeted his home repeatedly. Thieves have taken $20,000 worth of locksmith equipment, saws and lawn gear, he said.
After the parrot woke him, Mr. Baker said, he got up and walked to the garage. "He was in the very back of the garage," Mr. Baker said of Mr. Woodson. "There were no lights on. The only thing I could do was see a silhouette, and as you saw in the video, he had his hands in his pockets when he came through here. I had no idea what he had." The security video shows a man – presumably Mr. Woodson – with his hands in his pant pockets, casually walking around the perimeter of the garage and then inside.
Neither police nor Mr. Baker would give a detailed account of the confrontation that followed, and the cameras don't capture it. But police said Mr. Woodson didn't try to flee and that Mr. Baker shot him in his midsection. The case is one of several in recent weeks in which a home or business owner has shot an intruder. A West Dallas business owner fatally shot a suspected burglar on Sunday, the second time in three weeks that he has killed a prowler, police say. Last week, the owner of Joe's Cleaners in Far East Dallas shot a man who tried to rob him at gunpoint. Last month, a Mesquite business owner shot and wounded a suspected burglar after finding him with bolt cutters and copper cable taken from the building. Musician Carter Albrecht was shot to death Sept. 3 after he tried to kick in a neighbor's back door during a drunken rage. The neighbor reportedly thought Mr. Albrecht was a burglar and fired a pistol high through the door as a warning, but struck 6-foot-4 Mr. Albrecht in the head.
Earlier this year, Texas lawmakers approved the Castle Law, which removes any obligation for a crime victim to retreat before responding with deadly force when faced with an intruder in his or her home, vehicle or business. Despite the new law and the recent series of intruder shootings, Dallas police homicide Sgt. Larry Lewis said he would not describe them as a growing trend. "We get them over the year from time to time," Sgt. Lewis said.
When police officers arrived at his home after the shooting, Mr. Baker said, Salvador began greeting them with his signature 'hello.' "Sometimes he says 'hi,' but you can't get him to speak on cue," Mr. Baker said. "He has a mind of his own."
Mr. Baker said police officers are doing their jobs, but are overworked and understaffed. Dallas police recorded more than 14,400 residential burglaries last year. "I will protect my property and my life," Mr. Baker said. "The fifth time is enough. It's not something you want to do, but you have to do."
Kimberly Durnan and Steve Thompson / The Dallas Morning News
Labels: Self Defense