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Man said he fired to stop burglar, now faces felony charges

Union Leader Correspondent

February 21. 2012 11:44PM

FARMINGTON - A 61-year-old man is facing felony charges after he said he fired a shot into the ground to apprehend a burglar Saturday afternoon.

After discovering someone had rummaged through the drawers and taken items from his home on Ten Rod Road, Dennis Fleming said he grabbed a .38 caliber handgun from a shelf, went outside and spotted a man with a backpack walking down the road.

'It's a violation. I was pissed,' Fleming said, adding he realized he should have called police, but wasn't sure officers would arrive in time.

The sound of a crash at a neighbor's home - just over 1,000 feet away - drew Fleming's attention; he spotted the same man he'd seen on the road coming out of his neighbor's window.

Fleming said he wasn't sure he could stop the man, so he fired his pistol once into the ground - far off to the side - to detain the man, later identified as Joseph Hebert, 27, of 70 Bunker St.

'I just wanted him to take me serious,' Fleming said. 'He did.'

Fleming said he unloaded the pistol and put it on a nearby rock after a couple of his neighbors arrived to restrain Hebert, who police said had broken his heel jumping out of Fleming's second-floor window.

After searching the backpack, Fleming said he found two pocket watches, some decorative pins, a handful of rubber bands, some rubber gloves and some tape that Hebert had taken from his house.

Fleming said he's owned guns all his life and had several weapons in his house Saturday, including two rifles, two shotguns and the handgun he used.

'I hadn't fired it in 20 years. It was all greasy and dusty up on the shelf,' Fleming said, adding the police collected all of the weapons after he turned himself in to authorities Saturday night.

Police Chief Scott Roberge said officers had contacted the Strafford County Attorney's Office, which recommended Fleming be charged with reckless conduct, a class B felony, for discharging his weapon.

'My understanding is that he (Fleming) fired a warning shot,' Roberge said.

Strafford County Attorney Thomas Velardi could not be reached for comment.

Fleming said he takes responsibility for his actions, which could result in 3 1/2 to 7 years in prison if he is convicted.

'I'm hoping it won't come to that, but I've got broad shoulders, so I'll deal with it,' Fleming said, adding he has 14 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

'Even knowing what I face, I would do it again,' Fleming said.

Fleming said he's surprised at the reaction of his neighbors, many of who have shaken his hand and thanked him.

'This is something that has struck a chord - nationwide,' Fleming said, noting he's received a tremendous amount of support from around the area and has been contacted by people as far away as the Midwest and Utah.

Herbert, who remains at Strafford County Jail, entered no plea to the three felony charges - two counts of burglary and possession of Vicodin - during his video arraignment in Rochester District Court Tuesday.

He admitted to being an addict and asked to be released so he could get the help he needs. Herbert, who appeared on crutches, also asked to be confined at his home, arguing he is not a flight risk, as he broke his heel.

'I've been very cooperative to this point,' Herbert said, adding he'd showed police several homes he allegedly stole from in town.

The prosecution argued against releasing Herbert, noting he was convicted of possession of controlled drugs, criminal threatening, robbery, criminal mischief and for violating probation in New Hampshire between 2004 and 2006. He added Herbert also was twice charged with breaking and entering in Massachusetts in 2010 and 2011.

Judge Daniel Cappiello set bail at $10,000, cash only, with the provisions he would be monitored by Strafford County Community Corrections Program, undergo a mental health evaluation and refrain from using drugs, if he is released. Herbert was ordered not to contact or go near Fleming or the other resident of the house he allegedly broke into.

Herbert is scheduled for a probable cause hearing March 1.

Fleming, who was released on personal recognizance, is scheduled to be arraigned in Rochester District Court March 20.

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