November 23rd, 2010 – , CBC News
A Burton, N.B., man who confronted prowlers with an unloaded shotgun was charged Monday with possessing a weapon for a purpose dangerous to public peace.
The lawyer for Lawrence Russell Manzer, 45, appeared in provincial court in the central New Brunswick town on Monday.
Manzer was awoken in the early hours of March 28 by a phone call from a neighbour warning him three prowlers were in the area. (At the time, there had been repeated incidents of vandalism in Burton.)
The prowlers had been spotted in the yard of Manzer’s neighbour, Brian Fox, around 2:30 a.m., and Fox had gone out to try to catch them.
“As I was running down towards [the prowler], I saw two other people in the street, and they turned towards me and said, ‘You can’t do that; you’re not a cop’,” Fox said Tuesday.
“These two guys started walking towards me, and it’s dark, I don’t know if they have a knife, or a bat, or anything on them.”
‘I just find it ludicrous that this is still going on.’— Brian Fox
That was when Manzer heard the shouting and went to help Fox.
“I grabbed my firearm and went out onto the step,” Manzer said. “There was a lot yelling. It was dark; it was hard to see.”
He thought Fox or Fox’s son or wife were confronting the strangers.
“I stepped out front with the firearm for my protection and told everyone to be quiet, the police are on the way, don’t anybody move,” Manzer said.
Neighbours both ex-military men
Fox had all three intruders, who turned out to be teenagers, sitting on the ground by then and told Manzer he could put his shotgun away. Manzer said he did so. He also said the weapon was unloaded and the rounds were in his hand.
Fox said he was never concerned Manzer would fire the weapon.
The two neighbours, both retired military men, said police arrived and took the three teenagers home and charged them with underage drinking.
A week later, officers returned to arrest Manzer at home. Fox was also arrested and eventually charged with assault. The charge against Fox was later dropped.
“Utter disbelief. I was shocked,” Manzer said of being arrested in front of his family.
“I just find it ludicrous that this is still going on,” Fox said.
The men said they are not vigilantes but were trying to protect their homes and help a neighbour. RCMP Sgt. Pierre Gervais would not comment on the case because it is before the courts, but he did discourage people from acting as the Burton men did.
“If you’re not in danger, or you can disengage and do it safely, call the police,’ he said. “We’ll answer those calls and we will take appropriate action.”
Manzer faces $5,000 in fines and/or six months in jail. The matter is due back in court on Dec. 6.