LAYTON — Police have charged a homeowner who fired a gun toward a car and into a field with two counts of reckless endangerment.
Clare B. Niederhauser, 64, of Layton, was booked into and released from Davis County Jail on the class A misdemeanor charges, said Police Lt. Shawn Horton.
Police are still searching for a man and a woman who were in a green, four-door car parked in front of Niederhauser’s home at 2536 E. Gentile at 4 p.m. Thursday.
Police did arrest Robert Santos Cruz, 47, on one count of second-degree felony burglary and one misdemeanor count of criminal mischief.
When Niederhauser came home Thursday afternoon, he saw the car parked in his driveway, Horton said. As Niederhauser walked up to the front door, the occupants of the car started honking the car’s horn. A man, later identified as Cruz, came out the front door, carrying a pry bar.
Niederhauser went back to his car, got his gun and confronted Cruz, ordering him to drop the pry bar, which he did, Horton said.
“The vehicle then (backed) out of the driveway and headed eastbound, and Mr. Niederhauser fired a shot,” Horton said.
After the car left, Niederhauser used a cellphone to call 911.
When the first police officer arrived, Niederhauser turned his attention to the officer and Cruz ran to the backyard area. Niederhauser chased him and fired a shot into a field. The officer heard the shot and let dispatch know shots had been fired, Horton said.
“We are sympathetic to (Niederhauser),” Horton said.
A Standard-Examiner reporter went to Niederhauser’s home Friday, but his son said his dad had no comment.
Several neighbors said they support Niederhauser.
“I think the charges should be dropped,” said a neighbor, who didn’t give his name.
Another neighbor, who requested not to be identified, said that instead of being a burglary victim, Niederhauser has unfairly been made out as a criminal and will undoubtedly incur hefty legal expenses fighting the criminal charges.
The charges also set a chilling precedent for homeowners trying to protect themselves, said the neighbor.
“Who is to say you are not defending your house?” the neighbor said. “I don’t know what people are going to do. It’s crazy.”
Bob Acres, another neighbor, said it’s difficult to know when to use force to defend yourself against an intruder.
“If you shoot someone, you have a problem if they are not coming at you.”
Horton said Niederhauser’s decision to fire his handgun twice caused a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to another person.
Niederhauser does have a registered concealed weapon.
Horton said the charges against Niederhauser could have been much worse if he had intended to shoot Cruz or the two people in the car.
“We don’t think he intended to hit anyone,” Horton said.
Police charged Niederhauser because, under the law, he was not “authorized” to shoot into the field or the street, Horton said.
He was not being threatened by either of the people in the car and Cruz dropped the pry bar when Niederhauser told him to, Horton said.
“I know people are going to have a hard time (with Niederhauser being charged),” Horton said, but the bullets could have ricocheted and hit an innocent bystander or vehicle.
Horton said police took Niederhauser to the jail and also informed his family so he could be booked and released before Cruz was booked into jail.
“We did not want them in jail at the same time.”
Horton said police do not know why Niederhauser’s home was targeted. A similar burglary was reported on the same street the first part of December.
The Davis County Attorney’s Office is reviewing both cases before filing formal charges in 2nd District Court against Niederhauser and Cruz.
Anyone with information concerning the man and woman in the green car is asked to call police at 801-497-8300.