‘My instincts just kicked in': Pinson man recounts how he, neighbors helped catch burglary suspects
PINSON, Alabama — Paul Trammell says he always keeps a firearm ready, even if he’s just around the house. He feels he always needs to be prepared.
Thursday afternoon, he was ready.
He had gotten back to his home on Mountain Laurel Drive in Pinson just hours before from being snowed in at his office on U.S. Highway 280. He was barely in the door from having lunch with his family when he heard two loud bangs across the street.
He walked out on his porch and saw three young men running from the home across the cul-de-sac. His neighbor was coming from her front door on the phone with authorities. He heard shouts coming from inside her house.
“My first thought was, ‘Oh my God, my neighbor’s been shot,'” he said. “My instincts just kicked in. I can’t let these guys get away.”
It was about 3:30 p.m., and the three young men, one 19, one 16 and one 17, had tried to break into Trammell’s neighbor’s home.
Trammell, who’s 52 and has asthma, chased after them up a dirt hill and toward the woods behind the house.
He got about 20 or 30 yards into the woods, he said, and he saw them. They apparently stopped to catch their breath, not knowing they were being followed.
“I pulled out my firearm and aimed at them and told him to hit the ground,” he said.
Trammell said he didn’t plan on firing unless someone pulled a gun on him.
One of the suspects hit the ground. The other two kept running.
He walked up to the one who got down on the ground and told him to lay flat on his stomach and cross his legs — Trammell said he’d seen that in a safety video somewhere. At this point Blake Wood, his neighbor’s son who he had heard yelling earlier and was afraid had been shot, came up with a shotgun in his hands. The two shots Trammell heard were Wood firing into the ground to scare the suspects away.
Trammell asked the suspect for his name and his age. He was 17 years old. Wood asked him if he had a weapon on him. He said he did.
Trammell fished the revolver out of the suspect’s front pocket and found that it only had two rounds in it, and they were at the bottom of the cylinder. If he had pulled the trigger, Trammell said, it would’ve just clicked.
Then, Trammell said, the suspect told them he had to urinate. Trammell told him he could, if he did it from his knees. The suspect was facing uphill.
“I said ‘son, you might want to turn around and pee downhill,'” he said
After that, Trammell and Wood walked the suspect down and sat him down on a stump.
“I warned him ‘if you make any sudden moves, I’m going to take it as a threat against my life and I’m going to fire,'” he said. “He was scared to death. He knew he had just made the biggest mistake of his life. I knew he wasn’t going to try anything. ”
A Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy arrived and cuffed him, and then three more deputies arrived and started into the woods to find the other two suspects. One deputy turned to Trammell and said “let’s go get ‘em,” Trammell said. So he followed.
They tracked the suspects into another neighborhood, but couldn’t find them. Another patrol car found the suspects in a vehicle on Highway 75, and they went there so Trammell could identify them. Even though he hadn’t seen their faces, he recognized their clothing.
They went back to the cul-de-sac so the other witnesses could identify them.
The two juvenile suspects face charges of second-degree burglary and criminal mischief and were taken to the Jefferson County Youth Detention Facility, according to the sheriff’s office. The 19-year-old suspect, Contrell Dreonte Heard, was held in the Jefferson County Jail on charges of second-degree burglary and second-degree marijuana possession.
“This is a great example of neighbors looking out for each other,” sheriff’s Chief Deputy Randy Christian told AL.com. “Because of that, three criminals were caught. We love it when the good guys beat the bad guys.”
Trammell said he and Wood talked about it and neither wanted to have to shoot anyone.
“[Wood] said he didn’t want to shoot anybody,” he said. “I said I didn’t either. Never want to do that. I hope that never happens. But you do what you have to do to protect your family.”
Trammell said he trains with firearm safety so he knows how to do the right thing and is able to keep his family and his neighbors safe. That’s why he always stays ready.
“If I’m awake, I’m packing heat,” he said.
It was the first time he’s ever had to put that preparation to the test.
“It was just a thing where instincts took over,” he said. “It’s something I had prayed about before. If I ever get in this situation, Lord, let me be focused. Don’t let me make a mistake.”