FREMONT -- The first time thieves stole musical equipment from a van outside Michael Allen's home, he didn't immediately call police.
Instead, he said, he borrowed a gun, took a quick course on how to use it and then lay in wait for the bandits' return. When they did, he jumped out, held them at gunpoint and dialed 911.
That was in 1995.
This week it happened again, and Allen was ready. Clutching his .32-caliber revolver, Allen, a 60-year-old acoustic rock musician who performs at festivals and resorts, burst out the door of his south Fremont business early Tuesday morning and interrupted two burglars stealing musical equipment from his cargo trailer.
The bandits made off with some equipment, police said. But Allen said his gun-wielding surprise tactic likely deterred the men from taking the remaining $55,000 worth of items left over.
Allen, a civil and family law mediator, told police he was in his office about 3:20 a.m. when he heard noises, looked outside and saw two men outside his trailer.
According to a police report, one burglar was at the rear of the trailer holding some of Allen's belongings. The other thief was putting more items into the back of a black SUV. With his revolver in hand, Allen said he ran out the front door and pointed the weapon at one of the men's heads.
"I told him to stop," Allen recalled.
The burglar standing near the SUV got in and began to drive off, stopping briefly to let the
The thieves got away, and Allen dialed 911.
Investigators found the burglars had cut a lock off the trailer to get inside. They made off with a bag of cables and audio equipment valued at $1,200, Allen said.
The early morning heist took Allen back to another evening nearly 17 years ago.
In October 1995 he had returned home to find $20,000 worth of equipment including microphones and amplifiers missing from a van outside his home. Left behind were four speakers. Allen reasoned it was too much loot for the thieves to haul in one night -- but he thought they might return.
He hatched his plan. Although he hadn't fired a weapon since his military training in 1971, Allen called a Castro Valley gun shop and the Fremont Police Department to see if it was OK to borrow someone else's 9 mm gun. It was. Then he went to Target Masters gun range in Milpitas, and practiced using the weapon. That night, he left his van doors open and, gripping his gun, watched from behind the sheer curtains in his darkened house. A little after 7 p.m., he heard the rumble of a car.
A 16-year-old boy wearing a knit cap walked up and climbed into the van. Allen held back a couple of seconds, waiting for him to grab the speaker. Then Allen ran out of his house and pulled the gun's slide back, pumping a round into the chamber.
The boy started toward him, and Allen said he shoved him to the ground and put the loaded gun to his head. He said the boy cried out for someone to call the police.
Allen's girlfriend had already done that.
According to a police report written by an officer who arrived a few minutes later, "Allen got off (the boy) and allowed me to handcuff and take custody of him."
Police later arrested two more teenagers, who confessed that seven teens, including the boy in the van, had been involved in the theft the night before. The teenagers led police that night to all of Allen's equipment except one speaker.
Despite Allen's success, Fremont police spokeswoman Geneva Bosques said it's reckless for someone to try to catch a thief -- especially with no idea who he might be up against.
Someone could have got hurt. Or even killed, Bosques said.
"The only thing I have a fear of, is that I do not have a fear of anything," Allen said, then laughed. "I don't have any hope they'll find the suspects this time."
But, he said, at least he tried.