WWII veteran robbed at gunpoint in home invasion

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Helping others is human nature, but for one 93-year-old World War II veteran from Butler County, his generosity led to a life-threatening situation.

On Saturday night of Veterans Day weekend, “Joe,” who didn’t want to be identified, already was in bed when he heard a knock on his front door. Arising from his rest to answer it, he found a woman on his porch.

“She said she was broken down and needed to use the phone to call her boyfriend or husband,” Joe recalled. “About five minutes later, he came in and went straight to my bedroom.”

The man, Joe said, collected a few dollars in change from his dresser and asked if he could have it to help buy gas. As was his good nature, Joe agreed.

At that point the man and woman left the home, and Joe told them to lock the door on their way out.

After climbing back into bed, he got a strange feeling and realized something was wrong.

“Something told me they would be back,” he recalled, and he got up to ensure the door indeed was locked.

“That’s when I heard them outside trying to open the door,” he said. “It was a little scary, and they were making all kinds of noise.”

After a few seconds, the pair burst into his living room, Joe said.

“She stayed with me in the living room while he went to my bedroom and started ransacking it. He tore everything all to hell in there,” Joe said.

After taking about $50 in rolled coins, a few watches, postage stamps and a pair of rings from his dresser, Joe said, the man came into the living room. That’s when took a diamond ring right off Joe’s finger.

“That last ring was a little sentimental to me,” Joe said.

The man, he said, was looking for money, but Joe told him he didn’t have any.

“I told him there was nothing there,” he said.

Ironically, Joe said, he had taken some cash to the bank just a couple weeks earlier.

“I think somebody told them I had money at home,” he said.

At that point, Joe recalled, the intruder “put a pistol to my neck and said ‘if I find the money, I’m going to kill you for lying to me.’”

After that threat, Joe said, the pair tore his telephone out of the wall and left his home, leaving him “a little shook up.”

The fact the incident happened over the Veterans Day weekend, Joe said, was mind boggling.

“How anyone could do something like that ...” he said.

Unfortunately, Joe wasn’t able to report the crime until nearly 24 hours later, after a friend came by, noticed the damage to his door and called the sheriff’s department.

“It’s an active investigation, and we’ve got leads on who has been in there in that time frame,” said Butler County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Wes Popp. “There was evidence left behind.”

That evidence, he said, would be analyzed by the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s crime lab.

Popp believes somebody “had to have seen the cash being placed there and thought it was still there and told somebody.”

The lesson from his experience, Joe said, is “when it’s dark, don’t go to the door.”

With the way things are “in today’s society,” Popp said, “if somebody comes to your door, be very cautious. If you don’t know them, don’t let them into your house.

“If you let them in, they can take a look around and you make yourself a target that way.”

Popp recommends family members “talk such things out, especially if they have older parents or grandparents living by themselves.

“You have to put awareness in their minds to try to prevent something like this.”

Despite his scary experience, Joe doesn’t plan to change his good nature.

“I’ve always been nice to people, and it made me feel bad that I tried to help her,” he said, “but one bad apple won’t change my mind.”

That’s the “mindset for the older generation,” Popp said, “but they still need to be alert and be aware of what’s going on.”

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