After first break-in, intruder returns to councilman’s home – and gets chased with a gun

When an intruder returned to a southeast Fresno home early Sunday – only five days after allegedly breaking in a first time –he probably wasn’t counting on being chased by an angry Fresno City Councilman with a gun.

City Council members are typically tasked with creating laws, not enforcing them. But the encounter apparently pushed the wrong button for Councilman Luis Chavez, who was determined that the prowler would not get away a second time.

Chavez, 38, and his wife were on vacation last week to get married in Cancun, Mexico. Their vacation was interrupted on Wednesday when the alarm company and a tenant who rents a unit at the rear of the Huntington Boulevard property called to tell Chavez of a break-in at the home. The tenant said a man had followed her to the rear unit and tried to pry open the door after she locked it.

When that didn’t work, the tenant reported that the man went to the main home and broke a window to get inside. “He took an old watch, change and some nick-knacks, nothing big,” Chavez said. “She got a real good look at him and called the police.”

On Sunday, a day after returning from Mexico, Chavez was watching television at about 8 a.m. when he spotted a man peering through his front window who matched the description of the Wednesday burglar. “As I went to grab my gun, he goes to the house at the back of the property,” Chavez said. “I raised up the back window, pointed my gun at him and asked him, ‘What the (expletive) are you doing on my property?’ 

Chavez said the man muttered something about finding property with the address on it and wanting to return it. “I told him not to move, but as I went out, he bolted and ran,” Chavez said. “I grabbed my keys, got in the car and chased him down the street.”

As the man ran down an alley, Chavez drove on the street and got ahead of him. When the man saw he was blocked, he ran through alleys and back yards with Chavez chasing him while on the phone with police. Fresno police officers ultimately caught him moments later near Tulare Avenue and Sixth Street, about three-quarters of a mile from Chavez’s home.

“I know it’s not the protocol to follow,” Chavez said, “but I was so angry I had to do something.  I’m sick and tired of people who think it’s OK to break into homes and cars and steal property. It’s not right, and it’s so rampant across the city. I hear stories like this from constituents all the time.”

As the man sat handcuffed after his arrest, Chavez said he asked why he scared his tenant days earlier. “He said he wasn’t trying to break in, but just wanted her to let him in,” Chavez said.

The identity of the man arrested was not immediately available from police.

Police warn that residents must be careful about giving chase to possibly dangerous intruders. “In this kind of case, where something happened on Wednesday and then he comes back on Sunday, it shows that this thief wasn’t too concerned about people being home – a ‘hot prowl’ case,” Fresno police Lt. Mark Hudson said. “These people can be dangerous.”

“In this case, it sounds like (Chavez) was able to follow at a safe distance, and be on the phone to get the police officers to where this person was taken into custody,” Hudson said. “The first priority is to protect yourself in your home and call 911.”

But if one decides to follow, “keep at a safe distance and be a good witness,” Hudson added. “In this case, it ended well.”

Chavez agreed. “The good thing is nobody got hurt,” he said. “Everybody got to go away safe.”

Chavez isn’t the only council member whose home has been affected by crime in recent years. In August 2014, a would-be intruder tried to kick down the door of Fresno City Councilman Clint Olivier’s central Fresno home. When he couldn’t get into the house, the man threw potted plants from the porch at Olivier’s car. Officers were able to arrest him, and he was later sentenced to jail, probation and an inpatient drug-treatment program.

In November 2015, a burglar struck the Tower District home of Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria and made off with some jewelry, leaving behind a Raiders shirt in her bedroom and a tool used to pry open a window.