February 17th, 2005 02:35 PM
84-year-old kills intruder
Scumbag got what he had coming to him.
84-year-old kills intruder; charges are not expected
By ADAM JACKSON
Tribune Staff Writer
MISHAWAKA -- Like many homes on his block, Robert Birtwhistle's is a two-story frame house, with faux-brick siding and a small front porch.
Yet, modest as it is, it's the place he's called home for all of his 84 years. And early Wednesday morning, he proved he was ready to defend his home -- with deadly force.
Birtwhistle called police to his home shortly after 1 a.m. to report that he had shot 40-year-old James Rosebush as the younger man apparently was attempting to force open the front door of his home. Rosebush, who lived just blocks away at 735 Lincoln Way E., died of his injuries at the scene.
"It was going to be either him or me," Birtwhistle said Wednesday. "I told him that if he didn't stop, he was going to get what was coming."
According to a report from the St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit, which is investigating the case, Birtwhistle was awakened in his first-floor bedroom by the sound of someone trying to kick down his front door.
At that point, the octogenarian retrieved the loaded revolver he kept in his bedroom and went to investigate the situation.
"He was trying to kick the front door in," Birtwhistle said. "I warned him not to, but he kept trying."
According to investigators, Rosebush eventually was able to break the door loose, prompting Birtwhistle to fire at least one shot through the door. The shot mortally wounded the assailant, who fell onto the homeowner and knocked him to the floor.
The alleged attacker soon died. At that point, the homeowner called 911 to report the incident. Initially, responding officers took the homeowner into custody for questioning, a procedure that he said he didn't particularly enjoy.
"Ever been in the back of one of those squad cars?" he asked. "There's no room for anything back there."
After questioning, Birtwhistle was released to his home. Although St. Joseph County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Frank Schaffer did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment, a statement released by police indicated that charges will likely not be filed in conjunction with the incident.
"The information gathered at this time indicates the shooting is justified," the release stated.
What could have caused Rosebush to be there? That remains unclear, but Birtwhistle is no stranger to break-ins. Within the last two years, Mishawaka police records indicate that his home has had break-ins or robberies on at least three occasions.
That includes an incident on Jan. 22, 2004, in which an unidentified man tricked Birtwhistle into opening his door, then put him in a headlock and robbed him. That incident prompted the mayor to issue a warning to the city's elderly residents to be aware and led to Birtwhistle -- and his anger -- being featured on the front page of The Tribune.
No one was arrested in those incidents, but Birtwhistle said he believes Rosebush may have been involved.
Mike Samp, chief of the investigative division of the Mishawaka Police Department, said that although none of the prior incidents have been linked to Rosebush, his involvement is not out of the question. And although Birtwhistle's neighborhood is no more prone to break-ins than anywhere else in town, he said the victim may have been targeted because of his age.
"Sometimes, people will be driving around, and they'll see an elderly person and think they are an easy target," Samp said.
But Rosebush's record doesn't show a predilection for home invasions. Since 1998, he has been arrested three times: once for criminal conversion, once for false informing and once for driving under the influence.
Birtwhistle said he kept his pistol for one reason: protection.
"My dad always told me that a revolver is for shooting a person and a gun is for shooting a thing," he said.
Wednesday morning after the shooting, Birtwhistle was relaxing at home, trying to calm down after the events of the early morning. When asked if shooting Rosebush bothered him, he said his actions could only be judged by his maker.
"My boss is not a mortal," Birtwhistle said. "I only have to answer to Him."
Is he worried about future break-ins? Not very much.
"At my age, I only have about 10 or 20 years left to worry about anything," he said. "And I know there's one (person) I don't have to worry about anymore."
Rest In Peace Dad! I love you!!!
February 17th, 2005 02:55 PM
I find these particular kinds of people that prey on old people and kids particularly distasteful and I'm glad that the old guy had a weapon to defend himself. My parents, who live in a house I built on my lot, have an old S&W .38 and I hope my Dad would do the same if anyone tried to break in back there. I have told them that if I am home and someone tries to break in to call me first, not 911. I can be there in seconds. I would rather fight them than even have them involved.
Thumbs up, Mr. Birtwhistle. You did good!
Coimhéad fearg fhear na foighde; Beware the anger of a patient man.
February 18th, 2005 12:46 AM
Hurray for the good guy!! I'll say is again. Thank you Mr. Robert Birtwhistle for help clean out the gene pool.
February 18th, 2005 04:02 PM
Heck...some of these senior citizens are tough as nails.
84 yrs. old is getting really "up there" a bit.
The bottom of the scum barrel are the BGs that go after old folks, kids, the handicapped etc. They are true cowards.
Well, one more rotten Bad Guy learns "The Permanent Lesson."
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