Would-be robber falls in pool after chase by victim

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Gene Ford stands near a neighbor’s swimming pool at 233 Hildegarde Terrace Monday, hours after chasing a robbery suspect into the pool and holding him there until police arrived. (Melanie Duncan ThortisThe Vicksburg Post)

[3/23/04]Somebody was rummaging through his truck and Gene Ford didn’t think it was right to let him get away. So the Hildegarde Terrace homeowner started a chase that ended in a neighbor’s swimming pool, where a suspect was held until police arrived.

Records show police arrested Kenneth D. Johnson, 32, 3655 Wisconsin Ave., and charged him with auto burglary early Monday morning.

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“I had just gotten home,” said Ford, who lives at 208 Hildegarde Terrace. He is a manager at Horizon Casino, and it was about 3 in the morning. “I hadn’t even turned the TV on yet.”

Ford, 34, said he heard a noise from his driveway, where he had just parked his 1997 Ford F150 pickup.

“I put my shoes back on, put my shirt back on, got a flashlight and a pistol and headed out,” he said.

As he went out the door, Ford saw someone all the way inside his truck rummaging around.

“I asked him what he was doing,” he said, adding at that point the other man saw that Ford was armed. “I told him to get out and get down, but he wouldn’t do it. He took off walking away, so I followed him.”

The slow-speed chase went into Ford’s back yard, where the other man turned on Ford.

“That’s when the fight started,” Ford said, adding that the man then fled and ran a couple of houses down before tripping over a low fence and allowing Ford to catch up again. The two fought again before the man broke and continued to run down Hildegarde Terrace in Wildwood subdivision until he turned and ran into the back yard of Natalie McGaha at 233 Hildegarde.

“It was totally black dark out there, and he ran into the swimming pool,” Ford said.

When the man tried to climb out, Ford was able to shove him back in until, finally the man told Ford, “OK, I’ll stop.”

By this time McGaha’s 16-year-old son, Ross, heard the commotion just outside his bedroom and ran into the other part of the house to call his mother, who dialed 911 to summon police.

“I was in bed when I heard this screaming and yelling. I looked out and saw a flashlight through the window,” Ross said.

“I heard the splash and there was this guy in my pool. I saw another guy trying to keep him in the pool.”

Ford then held the man until police arrived about 5 minutes later.

“In that situation, you never know what you’re going to do. I didn’t want anybody to get hurt, but at the same time I wouldn’t have felt right to let the guy run off. Something needed to be done,” said Ford who works out at a local gym and has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

“I was shaking and scared. I didn’t know what was going on,” Ross said, adding it took him some time after the police left to calm down and get back to sleep.

Johnson was released on $10,000 bond.

Wildwood Subdivision is off Grove Street, behind the old ParkView Regional Medical Center.