HOUSTON—Everyone inside the Bellaire Coffee Shop seemed to be talking about the neighbor who ran down a robbery suspect on Monday morning.
Rik Melartin, a Bellaire businessman, caught a robbery suspect.
“So I fired a warning shot, out of my friendly dancing partner, into the ground. He turned around, put his hands in the air and said, ‘please don’t shoot! Please don’t shoot!’ At which time, with one hand I grabbed him by the throat, put him down to the ground. I frisked him and I said, I’m sorry, your nightly escapade is over,” Melartin said.
Many people agreed that they would like to have him as a neighbor.
“Yes, I’d love to,” Carolyn Cecil said. “I know that if something happened to me, and my neighbors heard, I would expect for someone, to you know, to come to my aid.”
Barbara Hopkins, another Bellaire resident, agreed.
“You would want a neighbor to respond some way. I don’t necessarily think I’d want it to be with a gun,” she said.
Although there doesn’t appear to be any legal repercussions in this case, when things go wrong, criminal, and even civil lawsuits, come about.
“When people start taking the law in their own hands, while there is an immediate desire to cheer, when the cheering stops, when you sit down and go, ‘wow, this could have turned out bad.’—And it’s turned out bad all over the country,” said Professor Gerald Treece, KHOU 11 News’ Legal Analyst.
This isn’t a first for neighbors protecting neighbors. Joe Horn, of Pasadena, caught national attention when he shot and killed two burglars he saw leaving a neighbor’s home five years ago.
“I think it’s sad that we don’t live in safe neighborhoods anymore. I think that’s the choice, if people are going to come and rob you, that you have to make,” Cecil added.
The suspect, 20-year-old Joseph Anthony Smith is still in the Harris County jail.