Homeowner holds intruder at gunpoint until officers arrive

Published: Nov. 14, 2017 at 4:20 PM EST
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A family shared photos with WSAZ Tuesday that capture the morning they say they were startled by an intruder. The homeowner took matters into his own hands.

Deputies at the Johnson County Sheriff's Office say the homeowner held the suspect at gunpoint until officers arrived.

It happened Saturday morning in the Leander area.

Gerardo Canuto, 31, is charged with first-degree burglary, possession of burglary tools, alcohol intoxication, and carrying a concealed deadly weapon. Investigators say Canuto is in the country illegally.

The homeowner tells WSAZ that around 5 a.m. Saturday, he came downstairs to find an intruder crawling through his window. The victim lives in the 1500 block of Asa Creek Road.

That victim tells WSAZ he chased the intruder off with his walking stick.

A few hours later, the homeowner found the suspect inside his barn. He isn't sure if the man was hiding or sleeping, but says he came out from behind the stacks of hay.

The homeowner ordered him to the ground. Then, he and a neighbor held him at gunpoint until deputies could get to the house.

Canuto told investigators he had been drinking earlier when he got into a fight with his family. He said he wandered off looking for somewhere warm to sleep when he found what he thought was an abandoned cabin.

However, deputies found a BB gun, ropes, a large flashlight and gloves inside a backpack that Canuto allegedly tossed inside the house before trying to crawl through the window.

Canuto is also in the country illegally, according to investigators. They are not even sure if his name, address and other personal information are correct because they say he admitted his paperwork was not real. While his paperwork said he lives in Prestonsburg, Canuto told deputies he is from Pikeville, Kentucky, and was in Johnson County visiting family.

Deputies have been in contact with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. For now, he is in the Big Sandy Regional Detention Center.

"It's very scary when it first happens," said Special Deputy Lauren O'Bryan. "You don't think it's going to happen to you, but it's best to always have a plan. Just kind of plan ahead to know where your gun is or where a weapon is that you can protect yourself with cause when people are breaking into your house, you never know what their intentions are -- if they're wanting to steal something, if they're wanting to hurt you or whatever. It's kind of like preparing for a tornado. You never know when it's going to hit, but eventually it can happen."

Not only is O'Bryan an officer with the Johnson County Sheriff's Office, the victims are her aunt and uncle.

"It's hard for me to know my family is dealing with it and that I'm on this side of it," O'Bryan said. "This is actually the second aunt that's been burglarized for me in the past two months. I had an aunt a couple weeks ago that had the same thing happen. They broke her window out and stole a bunch of stuff from her. Thankfully, this time they were home and they were able to stop them before anything bad happened."

O'Bryan herself understands the fear of being a home invasion victim. When she was a teenager, someone tried to break into her house while she was home alone. The doors were locked and the would-be burglars didn't put much effort into it so they did not succeed at breaking in. However, O'Bryan remembers hiding in the laundry room, scared and armed with knives.

"Before I never even thought about being an officer, but after that it really changed me," O'Bryan said. "It changed the way I thought about everything. That's what led me to this career path."

Now, she is encouraging others to do what her uncle did -- protect themselves if someone threatens you at your home.

"If you're in fear for your life -- which they definitely were, he had a gun that they believed to be real at the time -- if you're in fear of your life like that you absolutely have the right to shoot somebody or hold them at gunpoint or whatever until an officer arrives," O'Bryan said.