tampabay.com

3 teens pick the wrong house

By GINA PACE
Published March 9, 2007


TRILBY - Bill Banks knew the frantically ringing doorbell at 7:30 a.m. meant either an emergency or a break-in.

One teenager was at his doorstep. Two more were waiting in the car. Banks, 53, who had been sleeping, watched them through a window.

The first teen walked back and got in the car and talked with the other two. When Banks saw all three teens burst out of the car, the former Tampa police officer yelled to his wife, "They are getting ready to come in!"

By the time it was over, Bill and Maria Banks had apprehended two of their would-be robbers themselves, using quick instincts, a machete and a gun.

A deputy, with the aid of a police dog, found the third teen hiding behind a tree near Interstate 75, according to reports from the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

The Times is withholding the names of the three Tampa teens, ages 14, 16, and 17, because of their ages They are charged with burglary and possession of burglary tools.

The 16-year-old, who ran through orange groves, was wanted in Pinellas County for violating his parole for armed burglary and grand theft. He was also charged with trespassing on agricultural property.

Here's how the Bankses described the episode that unfolded Wednesday morning at their out-of-the-way house in Trilby:

As the teens charged the house, Maria dialed 911. She saw the 14-year-old try to break in through their screened-in porch. When he saw her, he took off running. The three teens jumped in their car, but Bill ran outside, gun in hand, and told them to put their hands on their heads. Bill fired off two warning shots to alert neighbors.

The 16-year-old started to run away. Maria, 51, worried the teen might try to attack her husband from behind, set after him with a giant sprinkler attachment for the garden hose, then grabbed a 2-foot machete from the garage to ward him off. He ran away.

Bill held the other two teens until a deputy arrived, and then helped her handcuff them. After the arrest, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office learned the teens were driving a Dodge Intrepid that was stolen from Lakeland. The 17-year-old has been charged with grand theft auto.

Bill said Thursday that he was worried the teens, two of whom had screwdrivers, could have tried to harm him or his wife, or attempted to run them over with the car. Maria said she was too caught up in the moment to worry about getting hurt.

"I just wanted to catch the guys," she said.

"We were really fortunate they didn't have guns. I didn't even think about that. I was just frustrated they were trying to break into my house."

Times reporter Molly Moorhead and researcher Angie Drobnic Holan contributed to this story. Gina Pace can be reached at 352 521-6518 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6518. Her e-mail address is gpace@sptimes.com