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County drops homeowner's gun charges

Posted By -NO AUTHOR- On 02/07/2004 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled

County prosecutors took a slap at an Illinois town that bans handguns by dropping charges against a homeowner who protected his family by shooting an intruder.

Hale DeMar, 54, faces sanctions from Wilmette, near Chicago, but Cook County says it will not press charges for letting his state firearms registration lapse, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“We choose to prosecute the real criminal here, the person who broke into this house not once, but twice,” said Assistant State’s Atty. Steve Goebel, supervising prosecutor in the Skokie, Ill., courthouse.

DeMar wounded a burglar who entered his kitchen Dec. 29, shortly after saying good night to his children upstairs. But the Wilmette resident was charged with violating a local ordinance banning possession of handguns.

Police Chief George Carpenter said the outcome “was very fortunate for the homeowner” and advised residents who find themselves in a similar situation to immediately lock the door and dial 911.

But DeMar blasted local officials in a letter published by the Chicago Sun-Times: “Until you are shocked by a piercing alarm in the middle of the night and met in your kitchen by a masked invader as your children shudder in their beds, until you confront that very real nightmare, please don’t suggest that some village trustee knows better and he/she can effectively task the police to protect your family from the miscreants that this society has produced.”

DeMar had been charged by Cook County with failing to renew his state Firearms Owner’s Identification Card when it expired in 1988, the Tribune said. He could have been fined up to $2,500 or sentenced to a year in jail.

“He purchased a gun legally,” Goebel told the Tribune. “It was registered. What he failed to do was keep current [his FOI card], and we chose not to prosecute this memory lapse.”

Prosecution, Goebel said, “would violate the spirit of the law and be a narrow-minded approach.”

DeMar still faces sanctions from Wilmette for allegedly violating its handgun ban, which carries a fine of up to $750.

The resident’s attorneys have filed a court challenge, arguing his constitutional privacy rights have been violated. A hearing is set for April 22.

Though the legal fees could end up costing him many times more than the fine, DeMar told the Chicago paper he is fighting the charge because officials are “usurping my right to defend my home.”

“I don’t think the municipality has a right to contravene my 2nd Amendment rights,” he said.

Morio Billings, 31, is accused of entering the DeMar home twice within 24 hours. He allegedly crawled through a dog door in the garage then returned the next night with a stolen house key. Prosecutors say Billings crashed through the home’s front window after he was shot then drove himself to the hospital in the family’s SUV, which he had stolen the night before.

Billings previously had been arrested 30 times, according to DeMar.

DeMar, a restaurant owner, said in his letter to village officials, “If my actions have spared only one family from the distress and trauma that this habitual criminal has caused hundreds of others, then I have served my civic duty and taken one evil creature off of our streets, something that our impotent criminal justice system had failed to do, despite some thirty-odd arrests, plea bargains and suspended sentences.

Previous stories:

Prosecuted homeowner blasts officials

Angry citizens back man who shot intruder

Homeowner charged after shooting intruder


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