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Newstead Councilman Justin Rooney confronts would-be thief in his garage

When Newstead Councilman Justin Rooney heard a loud diesel pickup truck pull up outside of his Bloomingdale Road house at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday, he thought it was strange.

“I thought it was odd because it was late,” he said.

Looking out the side window to see what all the noise was about, he noticed a man had left the truck and was walking between his detached garage and a neighbor’s house with a flashlight. Deciding that he needed to check out what was happening, Rooney put his shoes on and headed outside. That’s when he noticed his unlocked garage door was open.

The councilman had walked in on an apparent burglary attempt at his home. He shared what happened to warn his community and also help law enforcement track down the would-be thief.

“I turned the garage lights on and there was an individual standing between my car and my wife’s SUV,” he said. “I asked what he was doing, and he told me he was with the state and looking for a vehicle that was registered here.”

When Rooney asked the man for identification, he said he didn’t have to show any.

“I told him I was a councilman in the town, and he was going to show me some ID,” he said.

The man, still refusing to show any identification, took two steps toward Rooney.

“I backed out of the garage and told him I was going to call the cops,” he said.

As Rooney went inside to retrieve his phone to call the police, the man walked back to the truck, which also held a passenger, and left. Rooney called 911, and packed up his wife and two children, ages 3 and 6, and had them stay with a nearby relative for the night.

“I didn’t want them to stick around,” he said. “They were actually gone before the police came. I didn’t know what the situation was. I didn’t know if the person was going to come back, or if this was some lunatic who was upset. I just didn’t know, so I decided to err on the side of caution.”

Rooney and his wife told the children, who were upset, that they were going to help their grandparents make pancakes, to help alleviate their fear over the situation.

“On a good note, my kids think I’m like a superhero now,” he said.

When sheriff’s deputies arrived about 10 minutes later, they found footprints leading to the window of the garage, indicating that the man had looked into the garage before entering it, Rooney said. According to the police report filed on the incident, deputies pulled over a truck matching the description Rooney provided on Bloomingdale Road a short time after the intrusion, but it was not the suspect. A further search of the area failed to yield any results.

“They actually pulled someone over, but I did a visual, and it wasn’t that individual,” Rooney said.

The suspect was described in the police report as a 5-foot-10 inch, 260-pound white male with short black hair. Nothing was taken or disturbed in the garage, police said, and no “collectible evidence” was found.

Sheriff’s office spokesman Scott Zylka declined to comment on whether the incident matches any other incidents in the area, due to it being an active investigation.

Going forward, Rooney said he believes police will find the individual, or that he will turn himself in to law enforcement officials.

“He knows I saw his face,” he said. “It’s a small town, and people will be vigilant looking for that stuff.”

While it was the first time Rooney has confronted an intruder on his property, he didn’t feel threatened, he said.

“My priority is to make sure my wife and kids are OK,” he said. “I’m glad I did what I did, and I’m confident police will do their job.”