A Kansas City, North, man awoke abruptly early Wednesday when he heard two loud bangs in his garage, directly beneath his bedroom.
He grabbed his shotgun, ran down the stairs and opened the door to the garage to investigate while his wife and 18-month-old baby stayed upstairs, according to neighbors and police.
He came face to face with a stranger who apparently had kicked his way through a pedestrian door into the garage in the 9000 block of North Garfield Avenue. The intruder lunged at him while holding a screwdriver and set of pliers.
The men fought over the shotgun and ended up grappling on the kitchen floor. At one point, the stranger pinned the homeowner on his back and tugged at the shotgun. But the homeowner wouldn’t let go.
The stranger then told the homeowner, “I need your car. The police are after me!”
The stranger grabbed keys from the kitchen counter, ran into the garage and got into a vehicle. When the stranger reached into his pocket, the homeowner feared he was pulling a gun. The homeowner fired twice, killing the man in the driver’s seat of the vehicle. The driver’s door remained open.
Police said identification was found on the body, but they wanted to confirm the man’s name through fingerprints. He is believed to have stolen and wrecked three vehicles in Clay County before the fatal encounter.
Detectives believe it all started when a man stole a vehicle in Gladstone near Northeast Englewood Road and North Oak Trafficway. Oakview police chased the vehicle to a neighborhood near 75th Street and North Euclid Avenue.
Patrick and Bahia Brown were awakened just after 4:30 a.m. when the stolen Chevrolet Tahoe careened down their driveway on North Euclid. The driver swerved around their vehicles and a pair of silver maple trees before plowing through a fence and two pine trees and crashing into a ditch.
Bahia Brown saw the man try to rock the vehicle to dislodge it from the ditch. Their neighbor called police as the man climbed out the vehicle’s sunroof and raced into the streets. He pulled on the door handles of several vehicles parked nearby.
He apparently broke into a home on the block and, with Oakview and Gladstone police surrounding the house, started a vehicle and barreled out through the garage door, said Kansas City Police Capt. Tye Grant. He nearly ran over officers who were standing on the driveway, Grant said.
Police said he later crashed that vehicle and carjacked a pickup truck from a man in a grocery store parking lot near 72nd Street and North Indiana Avenue.
Police from various Northland agencies chased the truck to 92nd Street and North Brooklyn Avenue, where the driver fled into a wooded area and lost police officers but hit a tree. He then drove the smashed truck into the neighborhood on North Garfield, where he abandoned it.
As he walked away from the truck, the man encountered Vince Frew, who was sitting in his work van in his driveway about 5:15 a.m.
“Get out of your car, man!” the stranger said, pulling Frew out of the seat. The stranger then demanded the van’s keys but didn’t show a gun.
Frew clutched the van’s keys in his hand behind a notebook and told the stranger he didn’t have the keys. He said he was just putting some items into his van.
The stranger asked if he had another car. Frew said he did not.
Frew backed toward his front steps as the stranger rifled through the van in a feeble attempt to find the keys. The stranger spoke fast, his words slurred. Frew wondered if he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
At one point, the stranger grabbed a cellphone charger from the van and pointed it at Frew, with the cord dangling below, as if it were a weapon. He again demanded the keys.
The stranger later approached Frew and patted his pockets, looking for the keys. Frew pushed him away.
Frustrated, the stranger grabbed something from the van and threw it at Frew, hitting Frew’s arm. Frew cursed the stranger and started walking toward him. That’s when the stranger gave up and ran away.
Frew then opened his garage door and slipped inside. He noticed the stranger turned around at the sound of the garage opening. Frew closed his garage, called 911, retrieved his gun and stepped back onto his front porch.
But the stranger was gone. Frew saw an officer drive by, then heard a gunshot a few doors down. Then a second gunshot.
Three more police cars converged in the cul-de-sac just southwest of Frew’s home.
Frew later learned his neighbor had shot the stranger.
Neighbor Gina Smeja said she has lived in the neighborhood for more than four years with no problems until last week when someone broke into vehicles. That prompted her to talk to neighbors about starting a neighborhood watch.
“I’m sure everyone’s going to be on board with it now,” she said, adding that nearly everyone in the neighborhood is armed for protection.
“He picked the wrong neighborhood.”