A gun-toting homeowner in Coralville, Iowa, prevented a car break-in, but police don’t recommend people to act on their own, even though the law says they’re allowed to do so.
“I don’t think there’s anything legally he did that was wrong,” said Coralville Police Chief Barry Bedford. “It turned out very well, but the potential was there that it could have been disastrous.”
According to a Coralville police criminal complaint, the homeowner found James Travis Jr., 22, in his vehicle at 7:44 p.m. dressed in black and wearing a black stocking cap.
Travis was looking in the glove box of the car, according to The Daily Iowan. The homeowner held him at gunpoint until police showed up.
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Iowa citizens are permitted by law to make a citizen’s arrest, Bedford said. But warned that such an action “can be legal, but it can be extremely dangerous.”
“The first thing to do would be to call police or 911 and have somebody stay on the line,” he said. “We don’t encourage people to take enforcement action.”
“When police respond, they’ll focus on the perceived threat,” Bedford adds. “The person with the gun, they don’t know if he’s the good guy or the bad guy and if they do anything that can be interpreted as a threat to the officer, the officer is going to respond.”
Bedford said that issue is not limited to police responding to citizens carrying firearms legally.
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“Nationally, there’s a real problem with blue on blue shootings,” Bedford said. “That’s the trouble. We have problems with our own and we try to train for that. Then you add John Q. Public out there who isn’t thinking about it at all.”
Police said Travis has two previous burglary convictions from Oct. 7, according to The Daily Iowan. He was arrested and faces one count of third-degree burglary – second-offense.