Veteran saves family in home invasion

June 30, 2009 1:57:34 PM PDT
A quick thinking Vietnam veteran protected his family during an attempted home invasion. The attempted robbery happened on Bunnlevel Erwin Road Monday night.

The homeowner and veteran, Ernest McNeill, told Eyewitness News what happened.

"I don't know what kind of weapon they were shooting but somebody was shooting some heavy stuff last night!" exclaimed McNeill.

He said the gunfire reminded him of Vietnam.

"I thought I was back in Vietnam, when I heard all those rounds going off," McNeill said.

Deputies said they responded to an attempted break-in call at the home around 11:30 p.m.

McNeill and three family members, who were inside the home, were not hurt.

McNeill said he got a late night call from his cousin, who issued a warning.

"The house up the street where my grandson lives had been robbed, and they took him, and they were coming to my house," McNeill said.

Deputies arrived at the house quickly because McNeill called 911 before the suspects showed up at his home with his grandson at gunpoint.

But before deputies arrived, the suspects were at McNeill's door. The veteran said he kept the door shut and yelled out to the suspects.

"'Y'all get down!'" McNeill told his family inside the house. ""I'm calling 911!' I said it like that so they could hear me. I tried to scare them away. I didn't want them to bust in the house. Then a few minutes later, I heard gunshots going off!"

Investigators say someone in another car began shooting at the robbers. One of the suspects was hit by gunfire and the car they were trying to get away in ran into a ditch. A third suspect took off running.

McNeill said the 911 operator must have heard the commotion while he had her on the phone.

"She said, 'Who is it? Can you see the cars?'" the operator asked McNeill. "I said, 'No. We're trying to get down! We're in here trying to get down. They may shoot in here and hurt somebody.' I told everybody in the house, just get down!"

Officers searched the area by ground and air but did not find the suspect who fled the scene, so they called off the search.

"I hope they find him," McNeill said. "They need to find him!"

The sheriff said the suspect at large is Donte Lee Smith of Durham.

Authorities believe Smith may be in Harnett County. He was last seen wearing Orange pants and a grey sweat shirt.

The suspect in custody is 33-year-old Wendell Linton Zeigler of Chapel Hill.

The injured suspect is 23-year-old Antonio Antoine Micthell of Durham. He is in stable condition.

Both Zeigler and Mitchell face multiple charges including robbery, kidnapping, larceny with a firearm and first-degree burglary.

Anyone with information about Smith should call the Harnett County Sheriff's Office at (910) 893-9111.


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