One home invasion suspect is dead and another is on the run after coming face-to-face with an armed homeowner who happens to be an 84-year-old Korean War veteran.
Don Lutz told NBC affiliate WPXI he was asleep at his home in Ellport, Pa. when he was awoken by the sound of breaking glass and his front door being busted open just before 1:30 a.m. on Friday morning.
Lutz grabbed the loaded .380 pistol he keeps under his pillow and went out to investigate. He soon encountered a pair of intruders in his hallway. Lutz shot one of the men in the chest.
“I just fired one. It was in the dark. He attacked me and he was up close and I shot him,” Lutz said.
Despite being shot, the suspect lunged at Lutz and a physical struggle ensued which spilled out onto the kitchen floor.
“They jumped me and we both went on the floor. I scuffled with them on the floor and the one guy rolled over dead and the other guy, he jumped up and went out the door,” Lutz said.
Lutz called the police, who arrived shortly thereafter. They were unable to find the round that hit the intruder. They believe it might have hit the second suspect who bolted from the scene.
“The other one, maybe the bullet hit him, too. I don’t know. I hope so,” Lutz said.
The shooting was referred to the local district attorney, who has declined to press charges against Lutz.
“Based upon the circumstances that led up to the shooting, the Lawrence County District Attorney’s Office has no intention of filing charges against Mr. Lutz,” Lawrence County District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “There is no duty to retreat in your home. He was authorized to use deadly force under these circumstances.”
Lutz said he’s feeling a little sore after the incident, but he doesn’t regret pulling the trigger in self defense.
“I’ve never been afraid in my life. God has always been with me and I’m a hard believer in God and Jesus Christ,” he said.
Lutz described the incident to the Post-Gazette as a “me-or-them” situation.
“I wasn’t scared at all. I had my gun. I’m an expert with guns. You do what you have to do,” Lutz said, adding that he became comfortable with firearms when he served on the front lines of the Korean War for 16 months.
Police later determined that the deceased suspect is 49-year-old Dennis Mercadante, who also happens to be Lutz’s nephew-in-law. Lutz said he didn’t recognize Mercadante because it was dark in his house.
Mercadante has a lengthy criminal history going all the way back to the 80s that includes convictions for burglary, theft, and other charges.
“Those guys came to kill me,” Lutz said. “I don’t regret killing him.”