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THEFT SUSPECT IN HOSPITAL AFTER SON OF VICTIM HIT HIM

A suspected car thief remained in fair condition Monday in Erie County Medical Center after an early morning incident in which he was struck with a tire iron as he tried to drive away, police said.

Shawn Pettygrove, 26, of Dearborn Street, Buffalo, was knocked unconscious after being hit in the head with the tire iron while trying to steal a car shortly after 12:30 a.m. Monday from a residence at 40 Avery Place, Cheektowaga, police said. He suffered a skull fracture as the result of the incident.

According to Cheektowaga Police Lt. Cheryl Rucinski, when Pettygrove entered the 1987 Ford Taurus in preparation for its theft, a car alarm was set off, alerting the vehicle's owners inside the house.

Richard Wagner Sr. and his son, Richard Jr., went out to the car and were trying to thwart the theft when Pettygrove allegedly tried to run the elder Wagner down in the vehicle.

"My main concern at the time was that he didn't run my father over," Wagner Jr. said Monday afternoon. "My father was in front of his car, and the guy just put my father's car to the floor."

The wheels of the car spun on slippery pavement, and the suspect was unable to generate any speed, he said.

"I tried to reach into the car and pull it into park," Wagner Jr. said. "The guy grabbed me -- then I hit him. If my father (wasn't in the path of the car) I probably would have just let him go."

Wagner Jr. said he was initially alerted to something suspicious when he and his father were smoking outside in the garage. He heard a "beeping noise" coming from his girlfriend's car parked outside.

Wagner Jr., who knew his girlfriend was inside the house, said he suspected someone might be trying to "steal something out of the car." As he approached his girlfriend's car, Wagner Jr. spotted the suspect who was trying to start his father's car.

Neither of the Wagners was injured in the incident.

Rucinski said no charges have been lodged against the Wagners as it appears to be an act of "self-defense," but Cheektowaga police will pass the case to the Erie County district attorney's office for further investigation.

Meanwhile, Pettygrove was charged with reckless endangerment and grand larceny. He is scheduled to appear in court at a future date.

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