JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – A dangerous confrontation was caught on camera last week as a Jacksonville Beach gun owner confronted a man breaking into his truck.
It happened Friday at an oceanfront condo complex in south Jacksonville Beach.
The truck owner, Steve Fitzgerald, said he was caught off guard as he was leaving his condo to find someone in the cab of his pickup truck.
Then it escalated quickly.
JAX BEACH: Gun owner finds burglar rummaging through his truck -> burglar lunges at him with metal pipe -> owner pulls gun -> crook runs. We break down this dangerous situation with the concealed carry license holder only on @wjxt4 at 5:30. pic.twitter.com/JePFBDEgx3— Vic Micolucci WJXT (@WJXTvic) January 14, 2021
That burglar pulled out a metal pipe, which was the piece to a car jack, and lunged toward him. Surveillance cameras captured video of the dangerous standoff.
“You wanna get piped?” the burglar said. “Wanna get piped? I’ll pipe you!”
The man quickly moved toward Fitzgerald as he backed away. When the man continued to chase Fitzgerald, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his pistol.
“Get out of here right now, get out of here and put your hands up!” Fitzgerald is heard yelling on the video. “Somebody call 911!”
Fitzgerald, who has been a gun owner for more than 20 years and has his Florida concealed carry license, pulled out his handgun, which sent the criminal running.
He’s thankful he’s trained for split-second scenarios just like this, even though every situation is different.
“When somebody attacks you, it’s a lot different than training,” he said. “So my advice to anybody if you’re going to get a concealed weapon permit or if you’re thinking about purchasing a gun, train, training, training.”
The man ran off and an apparent accomplice in his truck tried to drive away, but Fitzgerald stopped her until police got here. Officers arrested 22-year-old Roberto Zea-Wangeman about 20 minutes later and linked him to the crime.
Police noted he was spotted running away from the area of the crime by a Tesla’s built-in cameras, which a neighbor gave to officers.
Both Zea-Wangerman and the woman, Catalina Roman, already had out-of-county warrants out for their arrest.
“You have the right to defend yourself in the event that you were being threatened,” said News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson, a former Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officer. He doesn’t recommend confronting criminals but said Fitzgerald handled a dangerous standoff appropriately.
“Since he was involved in that situation, he did a good job of protecting himself and making sure no one else got hurt as well,” Jefferson noted after watching the security video.
Fitzgerald said he’s thankful he’s okay and that he didn’t have to shoot.
“I was very close to pulling the trigger,” he said. “It’s not good for anybody to use lethal force against somebody. It’s not good for anybody. Both parties. And I’m glad I did not have to use it.”
Fitzgerald reiterated lawful gun owners should know the laws, train often and expect the unexpected.
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He applauded the quick action of Jacksonville Beach police officers. He said when they arrived, they took his gun, they handcuffed him, but they quickly realized he was defending himself. He is not facing any charges.
According to Florida law:
A person is justified in using or threatening to use force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. A person who uses or threatens to use force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat before using or threatening to use such force.