Crime

What would you do if a stranger crawled in your bedroom window?

Isabell Hoffman stands near her bedroom window at her family's house in Caldwell. Earlier this month Hoffman, 16, woke up about 3 a.m. to Ricky E. Herrera, 26, falling on her bed after breaking into her bedroom window. She chased him off. "I didn't get much sleep after that. My adrenaline was pretty high," Hoffman added.
Isabell Hoffman stands near her bedroom window at her family's house in Caldwell. Earlier this month Hoffman, 16, woke up about 3 a.m. to Ricky E. Herrera, 26, falling on her bed after breaking into her bedroom window. She chased him off. "I didn't get much sleep after that. My adrenaline was pretty high," Hoffman added. kgreen@idahostatesman.com

Sixteen-year-old Isabell Hoffman awoke earlier this month to the shadow of a man crawling through her bedroom window.

The barking of dogs in her neighborhood southwest of Caldwell High School had woken her a few minutes earlier. She had just gotten back to sleep when she heard the intruder at her window shortly before 3 a.m. Oct. 8.

The man, later identified as Ricky Emilio Herrera, 26, told Hoffman his name. He said he was running from the police and asked the teenager if he could sit on her bed for a while.

Hoffman reached over to her nightstand and grabbed a pocketknife she had used a few hours earlier to strip the wire from a pair of headphones she was repairing. As she spoke to Herrera, she held the knife behind her back and opened the blade. Then she confronted him.

“Get out of my room or I’m going to stab you!” Hoffman yelled.

Herrera listened and left the way he came. He was spotted by police a few minutes later and apprehended after a brief chase.

Hoffman told her story to encourage other families to talk about what they would do if an intruder came into their homes. Although home invasions are relatively rare, police say it’s a good idea to consider the possibility and to develop a response plan.

Hoffman, a junior at Caldwell High School, didn’t hesitate in taking action despite admitting that she was scared.

“I was terrified. I could hear my heart beating, and my knees were shaking,” she said. “I didn’t know why he was in my room or what he was doing.”

Her mother, Jessica Hoffman, said she’s proud of her daughter for taking decisive action.

“She was able to know there was an intruder, grabbed her knife and confronted the man,” Jessica Hoffman said. “I was happy that she was able to get him out of her bedroom.”

Her only quibble was that Isabell locked her bedroom door to prevent Herrera from entering the rest of the house. If there had been a violent confrontation, it would have prevented Jessica and her husband, Kelly, from entering their daughter’s room. As it was, they didn’t wake up until after Herrera had fled and Isabell came into their room and turned on the light.

Lt. Devin Riley of the Caldwell Police Department praised Hoffman for her decisive action.

“In this situation, where she didn’t want the individual to go further in the house, she chose to stand up and fight and that’s courageous,” Riley said.

RUN, HIDE, FIGHT

Three years ago, the federal Department of Homeland Security developed a program where it urges people confronted by an active shooter to run, hide or fight. The three options give people the greatest chance of surviving an attack, officials say.

Riley said his department encourages residents to use those same options when confronted by a potentially dangerous situation.

“If you’re going to run, get the heck out of there. Run. And don’t run to a different room. Run where there’s safety. If you’re going to hide, hide somewhere where it’s safe. And if you’re going to fight — and that should be a last resort — then fight, but be prepared to do it and know what you’re doing,” Riley said.

On Oct. 13, a woman who lives in a home near the 28000 block of Canal Road south of Parma was confronted by two men wearing masks and brandishing rifles. They told the woman to get on the ground. Instead, she fled the house, called 911 and provided a detailed vehicle description.

The Canyon County Sheriff’s Office later apprehended Boise resident Jacob Gibney, 18, and a 17-year-old boy. They were each charged with burglary and robbery.

According to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, household residents become victims of violent crimes in about 266,560 burglaries annually across the U.S. In those cases, 65 percent of the victims know their attackers.

The National Crime Victimization Survey, compiled through reports submitted by police agencies throughout the nation, does not specifically detail home invasion burglaries. The Center for Problem-Oriented Policing at Arizona State University says home invasions are rare compared to the overall number of residential burglaries.

Neither Hoffman nor the victim in the Parma incident knew the people who entered their homes.

‘IT’S ... ABOUT AWARENESS’

The owner of a Boise self-protection and fitness studio encourages residents to secure their homes by locking doors and windows and ensuring that windows are not easily opened from the outside.

“Those are the best things to deter somebody from even approaching your home or seeing your home as a potential victim location,” said Tracie Ide, owner of Idaho Krav Maga.

Ide praised Hoffman, saying that taking control and frightening off Herrera was one of the best things she could have done. She said Krav Maga, an Israeli defense method, teaches students to use aggression in responding to a potentially violent situation.

“It’s all about awareness. It’s all about having a pre-emptive strike ready,” Ide said. “When it comes to stopping a violent attack, more violence — whether it’s violence of your words, either aggressively yelling for help or scaring your attacker off, or actual violence of action, where you throw as much strength as you can throw to get away safely — is one of the premises that we teach. And that transfers whether you’re in your home, outside your home, in familiar territory or unfamiliar territory.”

Since the incident with Herrera, the Hoffmans have placed pieces of wood in window tracks to allow fresh air through their windows, but prevent them from being forced open to allow someone to come inside.

They recommend holding family meetings to talk about what to do if someone breaks in, and to practice the steps you’d take.

“You can’t prepare for everything, but the more you practice, the better prepared you are,” Jessica Hoffman said.

She said her family plans to have Isabell and her younger sister, 13, take a firearms safety class.

“Not everyone is equipped to handle a gun. Not everyone is equipped to handle a knife, but there are steps anyone can plan and carry out,” she said.

John Sowell: 377-6423; Twitter: @IDS_Sowell

Cases mentioned in this article

Before climbing through Isabell Hoffman’s window, Ricky Herrera had reportedly fled from a home in the 4100 block of South Washington Avenue because police were looking for him in connection with a series of car break-ins and a felony parole violation.

Herrera, who has listed his hometown as Caldwell, Twin Falls and Burley in various court proceedings, was later charged with possession of a controlled substance, unlawful entry and malicious injury to property. He was also held on a parole violation for a 2007 robbery and grand theft case out of Canyon County.

He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Wednesday in Canyon County Magistrate Court on the new charges. A hearing on the parole violation has not yet been scheduled.

Jacob Gibney, arrested in the home invasion south of Parma, was charged with attempted robbery, burglary and use of a deadly weapon. He is also scheduled for a preliminary hearing Wednesday in Canyon County Magistrate Court.

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