September 24 2021 03:30 pm

72-year-old retired firefighter keeps calm when man on meth invades home wearing a ‘cape’

Local News

AMADOR COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — A Stockton man was arrested Monday night after the Amador County Sheriff’s Office says he broke into an elderly man’s home.

Just before 9 p.m., the sheriff’s office says a New York Ranch Road resident reported a man in a red “cape” had broken into his house and was acting erratically.

“You got to stay calm because I can’t fight him, I couldn’t fight you right now, OK? So, my whole thought then was, how am I going to protect myself?” Steve told FOX40 describing what happened when a man broke into his home and confronted him in the kitchen.

Steve is 72 years old and a 39-year veteran with Cal Fire before retiring as a captain.

“When I was a fireman, I learned how to stay calm. And when I stayed calm, things came out better,” Steve said. 

Steve says the intruder, later identified as Stockton resident Erik Willden, spoke to him in a confused manner.

“’I want a place to stay. I want to sleep in your house. Where is Louis?’ Now, that type of a tone tells me…” Steve said with an exhale.

“‘I work for the government. I used to kill people,”’ Steve said quoting Willden. “Okay, let’s see if we can go outside and find Louis.” 

Steve says he kept Willden focused on whoever “Louis” was but noticed how Willden kept one hand in his pocket, which made him nervous.

Although he had a handgun hidden in his wheelchair, Steve says he didn’t want to have to use it.

“Inside, you’re falling apart. Outside, ‘Yeah, let’s go have some pizza,’” Steve said another exhale.  

But after what seemed like the longest 20 minutes, Steve says he got Willden to go back outside. Then, he quickly locked the door and dialed 911. 

“And they said, ‘can you describe him?’” Steve recalled with laughter. “’Yeah, pretty good-sized guy in a red cape.’” 

When deputies got to the house, the sheriff’s office says they found Willden stealing from Steve’s detached garage.

Deputies say Willden admitted to smoking methamphetamine six hours before entering Steve’s home.

Steve says he’s grateful for the peaceful outcome, knowing things could’ve ended very differently and says that keeping his demeanor nice and calm dictated the way the situation ended.

Willden was arrested on suspicion of burglary and being under the influence of a controlled substance and booked into the Amador County Jail.

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