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Officer William Westbrook thought his police work was finished for the night.

He had just ended his shift when the craziness began shortly after midnight today, just as he arrived at his Kensington Avenue apartment.

First, he heard thieves breaking into a nearby store. That wasn't too hard, since they drove a truck into a store in a plaza at Bailey and Kensington avenues.

Drawing his .357-caliber handgun, Westbrook ranoutside and saw that a four-wheel-drive vehicle had been backed into Thorn International Rental, smashing the front window of the rent-to-own store at 3041 Bailey Ave.

"This is what a cop lives for, to be at the right place, at the right time," Westbrook recalled today.

Westbrook said five men were loading television sets into the vehicle as he ran toward them, still wearing his uniform. Three of the thieves got into the truck and two others jumped into a sedan.

"I pulled out my gun, ran across the street and shouted, 'Police,' " Westbrook said, noting that the four-wheel-drive vehicle began moving in his direction.

"He hit the gas and tried to run me over. I fired two shots at point-blank range. I think I hit the windshield and the driver's door, and then I dived."

The 37-year-old officer said he does not think he injured anyone. But he said he hopes the incident "shook them up a little bit."

Westbrook, who is assigned to the Niagara Station, said he became suspicious when he arrived home. He noticed a four-wheel-drive vehicle with three men inside and a sedan with two men parked in front of Thorn International, which rents and sells electronic equipment, furniture and other goods.

He said he called police from a pay phone, assuming patrol officers would respond and question the occupants of the vehicles. But before Kensington Station Officers Charmaine Grabowski and James Clouden could arrive, Westbrook heard the thieves back the four-wheel-drive vehicle into the store's window.

"Just before I put the key in the (key) hole, I heard a big crash," he said. "I was so concerned with the four-by-four that the sedan took off first, I think."

Westbrook said he believes the thieves were able to steal only four or five televisions. A Thorn International employee said the amount taken was undetermined. The store also sustained cracks in the front foundation, Thorn officials said.

Kensington Station detectives were investigating this morning.

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