August 9, 2021
The survivor of a violent home invasion in Penhold has given Postmedia an extensive interview explaining the events that led to his multiple injuries and the death of the intruder on Aug. 2.
“I wouldn’t wish what we lived through on anybody,” said the man, who will be named John for the purpose of making this account more understandable, though that is not his real name.
The burly six-foot-tall man, who asked not to be identified, is grateful he’s alive but is distraught and struggling over having to take another man’s life in order to save his own.
The entire ordeal started on Friday, July 30. John and his wife had left their 17-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter at their rural home the day earlier to go camping west of Sundre. For the first time in his life, John took a shotgun and three shells with him camping after other campers admonished him two weeks earlier for not having any bear spray or a firearm to ward off bears or cougars that are plentiful in the wilderness area where they go quadding with their two dogs.
Back in Penhold — a town located about 16 kilometres south of Red Deer — at about 4:30 p.m. on Friday, a strange man started beating on the family home’s bolted front door. The kids called a family friend who rushed to the property on C and E Trail and after calling over another neighbour they held the man, who appeared to be high on drugs, until the RCMP could arrive about 45 minutes after being called.
The RCMP did not charge the man. Instead, they drove him to the motel he had been living at in Red Deer, warning him not to return to the property, which was a place the would-be intruder had either once lived or worked at about five years earlier.
John and his wife didn’t find out about that incident until about 10 p.m. that evening because there is no cellphone reception where they were camping. As is customary, they drove to an area with cell coverage in order to check in with the kids. A friend of the family told them she would stay with the teens that night. It’s a good thing too, because the troubled man returned to the property at 4:30 a.m. Saturday, without a vehicle, and started pounding on the front door, this time using a concrete planter, heavily damaging the door.
P were called and arrived in about 13 minutes, just as the door was about to give way and again the police drove the man away. But once again, tragically, according to sources, the RCMP did not charge the man or hold him in custody.
RCMP would not confirm whether they ever charged the man, which is problematic in itself.
When John and his wife learned of the second attempted break-in, they borrowed a friend’s truck and raced back to Penhold. John spent part of the morning fixing the front door. Their son went to stay with a nearby friend and with their distraught daughter they headed back out to the wilderness, “to shake off the trauma.”
On Monday afternoon, after the three returned home in their motorhome with their two dogs, John noticed that the gate to the dog fencing they have around their property was open. He told his wife and daughter not to enter the house until he could check it out. John grabbed the shotgun, went over to the workshop that is rented on the acreage and told the two people working there — a man and a woman who have become good friends — that he was going to clear the house.
“They thought I said he’s in the house and so they came running immediately.”
John is very grateful for that miscommunication because they have since said if they had heard him correctly, they might not have come. John believes his injuries would be worse or he might be dead had these two brave friends — armed with a rake and an extendable feather duster — not helped to deter the intruder from beating him even more in the head that he might not have survived the attack.
“When I went into the house, he was sleeping in our bed,” John said. “When he got up, he wasn’t listening to me. I was yelling at him to get on the floor. I wanted to tie him up so I actually went to throw the shotgun onto the bed to grab him but then he kind of moved at me, so I pushed him back.
“I put a round through the gun. I said, ‘I have a live round in here,’ and I looked down to find the safety on the gun and that’s when he nailed me on the side of the head with the baseball bat the first time.”
Blood started flowing out of John’s left ear, which he still can’t hear out of and hopes will one day regain some hearing.
“I immediately turned around to get out of there and he hit me several more times going down the hallway until I got to the middle of the house where I turned to push him away and that’s when I put my hand up to deflect the blows and then I turned to go through our front door and he got me several more times in the back and I fell to the ground.
“He sat over top of me and started beating me. I used the gun across sideways with both hands so that when he was striking me it would deflect the bat and that’s the sound you can hear in the video with the last two hits before I fire at him,” recalls John, referring to the harrowing smartphone recording made by his daughter from the motorhome.
“I’m lying on the ground with my back against the open front door and he was standing at my feet beating me with the bat and I have the gun in front of me deflecting the blows. I can see the safety, so I went to push it but my right thumb didn’t work, so I had to use my other hand to push the safety off and then I lowered my one hand down and raised the gun up and I pulled the trigger and shot him and it was over.”
Of course, it’s not really over. Not even close.
On Friday, John had surgery to the joint of his right thumb in which a Red Deer plastic surgeon pinned his shattered bones together with the hopes that he will regain use of his thumb again. His wife and daughter have already seen a counsellor to deal with the trauma and John has scheduled appointments for that as well.
The RCMP has said that no charges will be laid against John, the victim of the incident.
“You know, one thing I do feel good about is I did everything I could to not pull that trigger to the point of being beaten with a bat repeatedly. I’ve learned that, like me, he has a 13-year-old daughter. That’s made it a lot worse for me knowing he had a daughter and I took her father away,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion.
“Whether he was a good person or a bad person, he was still her father.
“Like I said, I would never wish this on anybody.”