The would-be-victim, an 80-year-old vet, wore an Obama T-shirt when police brought him home.
War veteran, 80, kills armed burglar
Been robbed before, vowed never again
He had been robbed at his own home on the West Side several months ago. That’s when the 80-year-old Army veteran made himself a promise: He wouldn’t be victimized again.
Early Wednesday, his resolve was put to the test when he was awakened after 5 a.m. by someone breaking into the two-flat where he and his wife have lived for many years in East Garfield Park.
The armed intruder — identified as a 29-year-old parolee who has done time in prison for drug and weapons convictions — fired at him and missed, according to police.
Then, the man did what his son said “he had to do,” shooting back and killing the would-be robber.
“Evidently, he missed,” the son said of the intruder. “My father had no choice. It was him or the other guy.”
Neither the man — whom police asked not be identified because of concerns over his safety — nor his wife was hurt.
After being questioned by police, he was released without any charges being filed, though police said they are continuing to investigate.
When he returned home, the man — who walked with the aid of a walking stick and wore a T-shirt emblazoned with President Obama’s face and name — told a reporter he didn’t want to talk about what happened.
His 57-year-old son, though, said his father was “sorry that it happened, but it had to be him or us.”
The son said the intruder, armed with a pistol, came in through a rear window and ran up a rear staircase, banging on the locked door of the upstairs apartment where the son lay asleep before running back downstairs and confronting the older man.
“I heard boom-boom-boom, and there he was, by the back door,” the son said.
Walking slowly from the police car that brought them home at noon, the couple slowly climbed the steps to their front door and went inside.
Late last year, the man — a Korean War veteran with three children and six grandkids — had been robbed at gunpoint at his home by three intruders, his son said. The robbers took $150, he said — and his father bought a handgun and vowed never to be a victim again.
“If homeowners can’t have guns to defend themselves and their families, there’s going to be more home invasions,” the son said. “My father’s glad he had a weapon. He did what he had to do.”
The son said he recognized the intruder from the neighborhood.
The medical examiner’s office identified the dead man as Anthony Nelson, 29, of the 3300 block of West Walnut.
Nelson had a history of drug and weapons convictions and was last released from prison in December, Lenora Nelson said and Illinois Department of Corrections records confirmed. Nelson was free on parole, the records show.
Nelson was studying to be a carpenter, his mother said, and was due to start a job next week clearing out homes to be remodeled.
She said he ate his favorite dinner with her Tuesday night — steak burritos — and that she hadn’t seen him since 9 p.m.
Of the man who shot her son, she said she has “no feelings for him at all.”
The shooting took place in the 600 block of North Sawyer in a neighborhood that sees more than its share of crime, according to Chicago Police Department figures. People reported 195 crimes within three blocks of there just from March 1 through May 16 — seven of them in the same block where Wednesday’s break-in and shooting took place.
Neighbors said they know how dangerous it can be and applauded the homeowner’s actions.
“It’s a good thing they had a gun,” said Curtis Thompson, who lives next to the couple, “or they might be dead.”
Thompson reflected on the break-in and added, “It could have been us.”
“I’d have done the same thing,” said another neighbor, Audrey Williams, who has known the couple for more than 40 years — the time they’ve lived on Sawyer. “They say we’ve got to give up our guns. But that’s crazy.”
Contributing: Art Golab, Frank Main