Pasadena couple halt a morning burglary, catching a man less than half their age

The Baltimore Sun

The predawn bang woke them both up.

At first, Tom and Pat Walker were afraid that the other had fallen out of bed. The truth was more frightful: An intruder had broken a glass sliding door of their Pasadena home and was rifling through their belongings.

The homeowners reacted quickly, and soon the pair -- he 74, she 63 -- had chased a man less than half their age around the backyard and through the house and held him for police.

"I've hunted bear. I ain't scared of nothing like that," said Tom Walker yesterday as he and his wife cleaned up after the incident.

Anne Arundel County police said they found 27-year-old Erick Olsen Bjorntwedt "cowering" facedown in a hallway of the home at 4:30 a.m., with Walker standing over him with an unloaded pellet gun.

Bjorntwedt, of Finksburg, was charged with several counts of burglary as well as theft, attempted auto theft and numerous counts of destruction of property, according to police.

The early-morning incident and the arrival of television and newspaper reporters afterward made the day more exciting than expected, Pat Walker said.

Her husband wakes up early on Tuesdays for his job preparing cars for an auto auction, so the couple were sleeping in separate rooms. When they heard the bang, they came out to see what was happening. Then their alarm system went off. When the two realized it was a burglar, Tom Walker told his wife to call 911 while he checked it out.

The homeowner rushed to the attached garage and discovered a man sitting in his wife's sedan, rooting through the glove compartment. He ordered the man out of the car.

The intruder then shoved the homeowner against the wall and ran out the sliding glass door he had broken to get inside. Walker -- barefoot and wearing long johns -- chased him out the door and the two ran around the backyard pool.

He said the intruder tried to climb over the 7-foot wooden fence, but Walker grabbed him and pulled him back.

"I was going to fight him," Walker said, adding that his father was a semiprofessional boxer who had taught his son some things.

"I'm 74, but I don't run from people. I never run," he said.

His wife kept watch from the kitchen window, shouting encouragement as she spoke with the police on the phone.

"I've never seen him in action like this before," she said.

Cornered, the burglar then ran back into the house and toward the bedroom, where Pat Walker blocked his way and pushed him back. He fled through the house with her in pursuit and tried again to leave through the kitchen door, but Pat Walker braced the door with her foot.

"He was like a caged animal trying to get out," she said.

Tom Walker then picked up an air pistol he keeps in the garage for his grandsons to use for target practice and headed back inside the house. The pellet gun was unloaded.

"I was determined he wasn't going to hurt her," Tom Walker said.

"I was concerned for her," he said. "If he'd have hurt her, it'd be a different ball game."

He pointed the pellet gun at the man and told him to "get down on the floor right now," Pat Walker said.

The burglar got on his knees and her husband told him to get all the way down.

The suspect, she said, "kept saying, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry.'"

Then she went to the front door and saw an officer coming up the walk. The police were on their way to investigate a report of another robbery in the area when they got the call from the Walkers.

After searching Bjorntwedt, of the 1800 block of Doe Drive, officers found a checkbook, tools, a credit card and several bottles of prescription drugs that connected him to a theft from a vehicle nearby as well as another home on Sandy Beach Drive, according to police. Officers also searched adjacent yards and found tools stolen from the other vehicle, police said.

He was being held in lieu of a $55,000 bail last night.

The Walkers have lived on Sandy Beach Drive for 16 years, a community of single-family homes near Rock Creek, and were never victims of a crime, Pat Walker said.

Neither was hurt, aside from some cuts on Tom's feet from running over broken glass and on Pat's hands from cleaning it up. The two worked yesterday to replace the sliding door and side window the burglar had broken.

Tom Walker, who grew up in Brooklyn Park, is a member of a Stoney Creek gun club and believes in the possession of firearms for protection. "I believe everyone should have a gun in the house and know how to use it," he said.

But he didn't need the other weapons he had in the house this morning, he said. "I had him scared enough."

"I don't believe in hurting people if I don't have to," he added later.

The couple said they felt no fear during the incident.

"I didn't feel like he meant to hurt anybody," she said, pointing out that the man was not carrying a weapon. "He didn't touch me. He didn't offer any resistance."

Tom Walker said he was more concerned once he realized he was standing in his underwear in the presence of a female police officer.

"I thought, 'Hell, I don't even have no clothes on,'" Walker said.

But the officer told him not to worry -- too late for that.

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