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Neighbors rally around 80-year-old accused of shooting burglar

By Rosemary Sobol, Liam Ford and Lolly Bowean, Chicago Tribune –

CHICAGO — Neighbors are calling on prosecutors to drop charges against an 80-year-old owner of a local tavern who allegedly shot a burglar in his home on Chicago’s South Side.

“If a man can’t defend himself from harm, what can he do?” asked Darryl Smith, surrounded at a news conference by dozens of longtime neighborhood residents and activists. “If he hadn’t defended himself, we would be here for a different reason — because an intruder came in and killed him.

“We’re outraged as a community, and we’re calling for the state’s attorney’s office to drop the charges,” he added. “This man has done nothing wrong.”

Police say Homer Wright and his wife were sleeping when someone broke into their home at about 6:30 a.m. Monday, police said. The intruder broke through several boards and entered through a rear bathroom window in what police say was an attempt to steal some liquor.

Wright was awakened by his wife and grabbed a handgun and shot the intruder in the lower right leg, police said.

Anthony Robinson, 19, was charged with felony burglary in the incident. He was treated at St. Bernard Hospital and Health Care Center and later released.

Robinson, wearing a white-and-blue hospital gown and his left hand wrapped in a bandage, limped into bond court Tuesday afternoon, where Judge Donald Panarese Jr. ordered him held on $150,000 bond.

Wright was charged with one felony count of unlawful use of a weapon after police discovered he had two prior weapons convictions from 1968 and 1994, officials said. Records show Wright also was convicted of theft in 1990. Wright turned his gun over to detectives.

Panarese ordered Wright released on his own recognizance.

On his South Side block, Wright is known as a hard-working neighbor who runs a bar attached to his home that has become a neighborhood institution. Known as “Tank,” Wright has operated the bar next to his home for more than 40 years, neighbors said.

“He doesn’t fiddle around, and he’s strictly business,” said Delmar Dunn, who operates a barber shop across the street from the bar. “He tries to keep order, and he tolerates no foolishness. He’s not an aggressive man, so I’m surprised he shot. He must have been pretty afraid or concerned for his own safety.”

Anita Dominique, head of the block club in the neighborhood, said she has known Wright for more than 30 years. “He is a pillar of our community,” she said. “What does it say to me and other senior citizens, that we will be arrested if we defend ourselves?”

Smith said police and prosecutors should have found a way to avoid charging Wright. “Just take the gun,” Smith said.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday at an unrelated news conference, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel declined to talk about Wright’s arrest. “I cannot comment on it in the middle of an investigation. It would be inappropriate,” he said.

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