Brazen, vi­o­lent break-ins shake up lo­cal stu­dents

Re­cent cases, one in­volv­ing a gun-wield­ing ban­dit, should have stu­dents think­ing se­cu­rity, po­lice say

The London Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - DALE CARRUTHERS

Kyle We­ber and Jeremy Noo­nan were hang­ing out in the kitchen of their Lon­don ren­tal home af­ter a night of drink­ing when they heard some­one down­stairs.

The two — one’s a stu­dent, one is not — thought they were alone.

Ex­cept for a room­mate sleep­ing on the liv­ing room sofa, ev­ery­one else in the Thur­man Cir­cle house — where six peo­ple live — was away for the Thanks­giv­ing long week­end.

That’s what hap­pens in off-cam­pus stu­dent hous­ing ar­eas, like the street near Lon­don’s Fan­shawe Col­lege.

Sud­denly, the two said, an un­known male with what ap­peared to be a hand­gun tucked in his waist­band emerged from the base­ment about 12:45 a.m. Mon­day.

It was the start of a hair-rais­ing en­counter, a cau­tion­ary re­minder why, in a city like Lon­don, with about 50,000 stu­dents, po­lice say se­cu­rity is key — and not just when stu­dents are away for short pe­ri­ods.

“We just looked at the guy, like, ‘Who the hell are you? What are you do­ing here?’ ” We­ber re­called.

They say the in­truder ca­su­ally walked out the front door as We­ber rushed to his base­ment bed­room, to dis­cover his room had been ran­sacked.

Alert­ing Noo­nan, 20, to the theft, We­ber said they went out­side and saw about a dozen young men — in­clud­ing the stranger from the base­ment, now bran­dish­ing the sus­pected hand­gun — on the front lawn.

They con­fronted the group, but re­treated into the house af­ter they were at­tacked.

“It was get­ting out of con­trol. It was me and Jeremy ver­sus 10, 15 other guys, so we came in here and locked the door,” We­ber, 24, said.

That’s when a beer bot­tle crashed through the front win­dow, fol­lowed by thuds at the front door.

“They were try­ing to kick in the front door and the garage,” We­ber said, adding po­lice were called and ar­rived within 10 min­utes.

Po­lice also re­sponded to a sim­i­lar break-in on Flem­ing Drive, a nearby street with a large stu­dent pop­u­la­tion, about 20 min­utes later.

In the sec­ond break-in, res­i­dents saw a male crawl out of their base­ment win­dow. When they ap­proached, the sus­pect in­di­cated he had a weapon, then joined a group of nearly 20 peo­ple, po­lice said.

It was get­ting out of con­trol. It was me and Jeremy ver­sus 10, 15 other guys, so we came in here and locked the door.” Ten­ant Kyle We­ber

With 165 break-ins re­ported at homes within a kilo­me­tre of Western Univer­sity and Fan­shawe Col­lege this year, po­lice warn Lon­don post-sec­ondary stu­dents to keep doors and win­dows locked, even when they’re at home.

“Th­ese guys were very brazen,” Sgt. Blair Har­vey said of the long week­end break-in sus­pects.

A 17-year-old male is charged with as­sault and break­ing and en­ter­ing in the Thur­man Cir­cle in­tru­sion, but no other ar­rests have been made.

The two crimes don’t fit the typ­i­cal break-in, Har­vey said, de­clin­ing to con­firm whether a gun was in­volved.

“Usu­ally break-ins are com­mit­ted by one, maybe two sus­pects . . . at­tempt­ing to not be de­tected,” he said. “This was ab­so­lutely not the case.”

Th­ese guys were very brazen.”

Sgt. Blair Har­vey

Back on Thur­man Cir­cle, the shat­tered front win­dow and shoe scuff marks on the front door are a re­minder of Mon­day’s vi­o­lence.

Noo­nan said the thief got in through a base­ment win­dow and likely passed items to an­other per­son out­side. The stolen prop­erty in­cluded a PlayS­ta­tion game con­sole, cell­phone, $200 in cash, shoes, cologne and more than a dozen bas­ket­ball jer­seys, he said.

The room­mates say they were shocked some­one would break into a home while peo­ple were ob­vi­ously in­side.

“There were two cars in the drive­way. All the lights were on, mu­sic was play­ing,” Noo­nan said.

Known for hav­ing elec­tron­ics such as lap­top com­put­ers and cell­phones, post-sec­ondary stu­dents of­ten leave their doors and win­dows un­locked, mak­ing their homes easy prey for thieves.

In this cal­en­dar year, there have been 115 break-ins re­ported near Western and 50 more re­ported at off-cam­pus homes around Fan­shawe.

The lat­est break-ins should un­der­line for stu­dents the need to be vig­i­lant about house­hold se­cu­rity, Har­vey said.

“Cer­tainly, the alarm bells were go­ing off for us,” he said. “And that’s why we felt the need to get a mes­sage out to the stu­dents . . . that they need to take greater own­er­ship of their own se­cu­rity.”

MIKE HENSEN/THE LON­DON FREE PRESS

Kevin Best shows the front win­dow of his Thur­man Cir­cle home, bro­ken by a bot­tle hurled by a group of young men af­ter a gun-tot­ing in­truder broke in Thanks­giv­ing Mon­day. Three of his room­mates were in the house, in the off-cam­pus stu­dent hous­ing area near Fan­shawe Col­lege, at the time, Best said.

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