Beatrice Turner traded her shotgun 30 years ago for a .22-caliber handgun that she keeps in her bedroom for protection.
Tuesday morning, the 89-year-old woman fired the weapon for the first time.
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An intruder bashed in the front door of Turner’s east-side Des Moines house about 5:30 a.m. Turner said she yelled at the man, telling him he had the wrong house and warned him she would shoot if he came inside.
“He was a big, burly guy,” Turner said. “He was pulling at his shorts and talking crazy. If they stay outside, OK. But I always said if they come inside, it’s me or them.
Turner fired one shot – and missed. “I squeezed it again but it didn’t go off,” she said. “By then he was pounding on the coffee table.”
Turner said the man kept repeating, “It’s not daylight, it’s not daylight.”
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“I told him Jesus and I would go outside with him and make the daylight come,” Turner said.
A neighbor who heard the gunshot called police.
When officers arrived at Turner’s house, located north of Hiatt Middle School, they found Nelson McAlpine, 37, standing in the front yard. Officers asked him if he lived there, and he said, ‘No.’
McAlpine reportedly told police he had been using drugs and didn’t know where he was, officers said.
McAlpine, who has an extensive police record, was being held in the Polk County Jail on Tuesday on a charge of second-degree burglary. Bond was set at $10,000.
Officials say it is rare that a homeowner actually fires a gun at an intruder.
Polk County Attorney John Sarcone, who has been in office for 19 years, said he could probably count on one hand the number of times a home-owner has fired a gun at an intruder.
“You have no duty to retreat inside your own home,” Sarcone said. “Force has to be commensurate with the threat. What would a reasonable person in her position do?”
Des Moines Police Sgt. Lori Lavorato issued a caution about the use of deadly force.
Turner “took the course of action she felt she had to,” Lavorato said. “By no means do we condone shooting at a burglar. But she could have become a victim in a situation like that.”
In most shootings, police confiscate the gun while they sort things out. Not on Tuesday. According to Turner, police helped her reload the handgun and left it in her possession.
“There were about six officers here,” she said. “All of them were hugging me and telling me how brave I was.”
Later Tuesday, the front and back doors at Turner’s house were replaced.
And Turner spent some time learning more about her gun.
She said she figured out how to fire a second shot.