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After routine start, a terrifying morning

Published February 28, 2007


It was Thursday, barely past dawn in quiet Allendale. On 42nd Avenue N, a family went about its routine business; its out-of-town guests prepared to head for a day of swimming with the manatees at Crystal River.

And then, just past 6:30 a.m., intruders shattered the calm.

Bursting through a door from the garage, three men charged into the house. They shouted. One of them pointed a gun. They wanted money, $50,000. They screamed for a wall safe, tearing down pictures to find one.

"We were terrified. Absolutely terrified," said Nina Light, who has lived in the house with her husband, Dr. James M. Light, since 1985.

The invaders threatened to kidnap the Lights' visiting 8-year-old niece, who was up and in the family room. The men also said they would take Dr. Light and hold him for ransom.

"They were waving the gun around, threatening to kill everybody," said Nina Light. They even threatened to kill the Lights' blue heeler, Chloe, who wouldn't stop barking.

The men left before 7 a.m. No one was physically harmed. They took Nina Light's visiting brother's wallet and his rental car, and they stole James Light's car keys.

"My husband talked them out of (doing more)," Light said. "He was so calm. I couldn't believe it."

Police said they are looking for three black male suspects. Nina Light said she believes they are in the 16- to 20-year-old range.

The Lights were left shaken and angry. Nina Light's brother canceled plans and left for an airport hotel immediately after the invasion.

Nina Light went to a sporting goods store and bought a .38-caliber pistol. She said their expensive home security system "is getting even more expensive."

And Thursday, she said she will go before the City Council and demand more police protection. Meanwhile, the neighborhood has scheduled a meeting on Monday to set up a crime watch group.

The police response after the invasion was excellent, Light said, and police Chief Chuck Harmon paid a personal visit to the Lights' home.

But Light said the home invasion was merely the latest among several incidents residents have reported in the tree-canopied, generally well-to-do neighborhood.

"We should be having protection for the taxes we pay," Light said.

Home invasions can be a crime of opportunity or they can occur because someone holds a grudge against another, police say.

"They're not a regular occurrence, but they do happen," said spokesman George Kajtsa.

"Quite a few are random," he said.

Light said her husband had raised the garage door as he prepared to leave for work, and that the invaders probably saw the moment.

After stealing the rental car, the men parked it two doors away and got into another vehicle that had been reported stolen, Light said.

Her brother's wallet later was found on an Interstate 275 ramp.

The $20 it contained was gone.

[Last modified February 27, 2007, 20:31:44]

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