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Published: Thursday, 3/23/2006

Chasing intruder all in a day's work


A tile mason from the Toledo suburb of Holland was puzzled by the commotion when he arrived for work yesterday.

Ernest Messer, who has been installing tile in a home on Nightingale Drive in Holland, wasn't expecting anyone to be there. When he called out, a noise stopped and an intruder, who had been noisily ransacking the house, scrambled out the back door.

After a chase and some quick thinking by Mr. Messer, the intruder was caught and arrested. "He's my hero," David N. Brown, the homeowner, said.

The tile mason had let himself into the house at 8:30 a.m. through an unlocked door - apparently the same door the intruder used. After the intruder fled across a field, Mr. Messer hopped into his van, called police, and chased him.

In the parking lot of a nearby store, Mr. Messer hollered to a couple of men for help. "I yelled 'There he is!' and we all took off running." They caught up with the intruder as he got into a white Pontiac convertible at a nearby apartment complex. They reached through a window and grabbed him.

"We thought he might have a weapon. When he went to reach under the seat, we let go and wrote down the license plate," Mr. Messer, 45, said. Tires squealing, the intruder fled.

Holland police Chief Doug Kaiser said based on information provided by Mr. Messer, Toledo police found the vehicle and apprehended the intruder about 11 a.m. near Waite High School on the city's east side. Toledo police recovered the property taken from Mr. Brown's home, the chief said.

James Lewis, 42, of 1124 Brook Park, was charged with burglary, and last night was being held in the Lucas County jail. He also was being held on an arrest warrant from Perrysburg charging him with theft. A parole violation was listed on the booking sheet, too. He's to be arraigned today in Sylvania Municipal Court.

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