Royal Highlands, Florida

From the October 18, 2007 St. Petersburg Times:

ROYAL HIGHLANDS — Mark Hartley returned to his house Wednesday morning to find an unfamiliar red pickup in the driveway. He grabbed a pistol and walked to the back of his doublewide mobile home and saw the door was ajar.

In his mind, he said, “This isn’t good,” Hartley told the Hernando Times.

In his hand, Hartley gripped a .22-caliber pistol. He gently opened the screen door, but it creaked as it shut behind him. The intruder heard it.

“I said, ‘Freeze,’ and he came charging out of my bedroom at me,” Hartley said. “He tried to tackle me at the back door; he came shoulder down.”

Hartley managed to fire one shot from about a foot away. But the first bullet was “snake shot,” or a bullet filled with tiny lead pellets used to kill small varmints.

It didn’t slow the intruder, described as a white male in his 20s with a shaved head, last seen wearing baggy blue jeans and a white tank top. The intruder ran out the door of the home at the corner of Sorrell Street and Sunshine Grove Road and headed for the red pickup.

The truck, authorities said, was reported stolen about three days ago in Hernando County. On the front seat was a .38-caliber handgun, also reported stolen in an unrelated incident. But the suspect didn’t have time to reach the weapon, Hartley said, because Hartley was close behind him.

As the man fled, Hartley fired another shot — this time with a real bullet. It’s unclear if the slug hit him, but Hartley said he saw the man begin to limp as he ran north along Sunshine Grove Road before crossing a field in this rural neighborhood northwest of Brooksville.

Authorities launched an exhaustive daylong search involving nearly two dozen sheriff’s deputies, a helicopter and numerous scent-tracking canine units.

The suspect remained on the loose Wednesday evening.

“We felt comfortable that the perimeter was set pretty quick, but after checking with canine and helicopter” nothing was found, said Lt. Scott Bierwiler, a spokesman for the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.


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