Berlin Township, Iowa

From the Ionia Sentinel-Standard of May 5, 2007

‘I had seconds to make a decision, and I knew I had to save my family’

What began as a leisurely night for one Ionia family ended in a wild shoot-out between three men, with dozens of shots fired through the side door of the family’s home.

Chris Vasquez said he was getting a drink of water before settling down with five other family members to watch a movie just after midnight on Friday morning. He was at the home at 713 West Tuttle Road with his girlfriend, her two daughters and their boyfriends.

When he looked out the window while getting a drink, he saw two men walking up to the door in a menacing fashion. Because of an incident that occurred earlier in the evening at a family member’s home on Sayles Road in Easton Township, Vasquez was already on alert.

He yelled for someone to grab his 12-gauge Remington 870 Express pump shotgun.

“My greatest fear was that they would shoot me and then go on into the back room and kill the rest of my family,” Vasquez said.

As the assailants approached the door, Vasquez appeared in the doorway. According to Vasquez, two hooded men opened fire at the door, firing off at least six rounds. Vasquez blasted back through the screen door, hoping to hold off the men.

Summer Twomey, 21, who lives with her mom at the home, said Vasquez yelled for them to hit the floor.

“I had just fallen asleep … when I heard (Chris) yell ‘get down.’ Then I heard the gunshots,” Twomey said. “I had no idea where anyone was, just everyone was going crazy. I heard Chris loading his gun.”

The shoot-out lasted only a few moments.

When it was over, there were several bullet holes in the side door of the home, and a bullet lodged in the kitchen wall. There was also damage to the door where Vasquez had discharged his shotgun.

As the assailants retreated, Vasquez ran outside and pumped several rounds into the ground.

“I wanted to make sure they kept running, so I kept shooting into the ground,” he said.

Vasquez said he did not shoot at the fleeing men for fear of hitting a neighboring house to the west.

The assailants ran a few yards to the west, then bolted west on Tuttle Road in what Vasquez thought was an older model red full-size pickup truck.

Within a matter of minutes police from the Ionia County Sheriff’s Office and Ionia Department of Public Safety swarmed the area looking for the suspect vehicle, but found nothing.

Vasquez defended his use of the shotgun.

“I’d rather have a gun and not need it, then need a gun and not have it,” he said. “I had seconds to make a decision, and I knew I had to save my family.”

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