ANCHORAGE - Don't mess with a retired military man - especially one who takes it personally and gets out a shotgun when you break into his home.
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Richard Noren, 56, a seemingly mild-mannered ex-Army soldier and current Junior ROTC teacher, decided he wouldn't rely on the police after bandits broke down a door of his Eagle River home and stole thousands of dollars of his stuff while he was out of town.
Summoned by his daughter, Noren rushed back from his Seward vacation, parked his car far away from his house, shut off the lights, hid the dogs and then lay in wait, sitting on the living room couch with a 20-gauge shotgun in his lap, for the burglars to return.
They did, just as he figured, and Noren grabbed the man who tried to come in the front door by the neck and held him at bay until police arrived.
Police arrested Tracy Randall, a 32-year-old on probation with a long rap sheet, on burglary charges.
Noren's crime fighting has Anchorage police applauding his self-reliance but warning others not to follow in his footsteps.
"Sometimes you need to take steps to protect yourself," Anchorage police burglary Sgt. Ron Tidler said. "I'm not advocating go grab a gun and stick it in the ear of anybody knocking at your door by any means. ... But people should take reasonable measures to protect themselves - whatever they deem reasonable."
Noren and his wife were in Seward when on Dec. 29 they got a call from their daughter who was checking on their home and found doors broken. Gone were a laptop computer and two pistols that had been locked in a glass gun case.
He reported the break-in to police but then hatched his plan.
His wife went upstairs in a bedroom with the two dogs. Gripping a shotgun the burglars didn't take the night before, Noren sat in the front room watching the door. A little after 4 a.m., he heard a car on his otherwise quiet street. The car drove up and down the street half a dozen times, he recalled. The car turned its headlights off. On the final approach, a man jumped out and came to Noren's front door.
Adrenaline pumping, Noren didn't know if the man was armed, and, as he says it, he "didn't want a shootout in his living room."
He swung open the door and grabbed the surprised burglar by his collar.
"I was able to move quickly, snag his tail. And, me and Mr. Shotgun were able to convince him not to move," Noren said.
Randall denied that he was the burglar of the night before, police say. Police charged him only with the second incident. Another man, who was in the car with Randall and who may have been Randall's lookout, was found nearby and questioned by police. He was let go. Police say the investigation continues.