Brazen, violent break-ins shake up local students
Recent cases, one involving a gun-wielding bandit, should have students thinking security, police say
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.”
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.