At some point in life, we all prep for an emergency. Fire drills. Nuclear fallout drills. Earthquake drills. Folks in other parts of the country drill to be ready when a tornado rolls through.
Bart and Melissa Ardis added another drill to the mix with their blended family of four children. Living in a rural area south of Oakdale, they know it can take sheriff's deputies quite a while to arrive if an intruder picks their home for a break-in after they call 911. So they created a plan that includes keeping registered handguns within reach at night. They've taught the children to hide in a safe room should trouble arise.
If this seems like overkill or paranoia to folks who detest gun ownership of any kind, consider what happened at 4 a.m. Wednesday. Three of the children were off staying with their mother. Carson, Melissa's son and Bart's stepson, had been feeling poorly and slept in their room. The home's alarm system was disabled, courtesy of the critter that got beneath the home and chewed through a wire (it has since been repaired).
Suddenly, they all heard a noise -- loud enough to bring all fully awake. Bart and Melissa looked at each other to make sure one wasn't up and about. Then they grabbed their handguns. When they looked up, they saw the shadow of a man in their home. What follows is the Ardises' account of events:
Bart's 10 mm pistol has a bright light affixed. He pointed it at the intruder.
"He heard us grab our guns," Bart said. "I asked him his name and what he was doing."
The intruder, whom authorities later identified as 27-year-old Albert Anthony Liberini of Modesto, claimed he was their neighbor and needed their help. Someone had crashed a car at his place, stole his guns and was chasing him, he claimed. Ardis knows the few neighbors in the area, since most also are ranchers. Never heard of this guy. He asked the intruder how he got into the house, and said the intruder told him the back door was left open.
At gunpoint, he marched the intruder to the back door. It's locked, Bart pointed out.
"He said he locked it after he came in," Bart said. Yeah, right.
He told the man to unlock the door and step outside, where they could talk. When the intruder complied, Bart closed the door and locked the intruder out of the house as Melissa dialed 911 and 9-year-old Carson locked himself in the bathroom.
At the 911 operator's instructions and with deputies arriving, Bart relinquished his weapon. He handed it to Melissa, who had her own .40-caliber pistol in her left hand.
"He kept asking me to open the door so he could shake my hand," Bart said.
About that time, lights from the approaching sheriff's cruisers were visible through the front windows. That seemed to agitate the intruder, who suddenly broke the back-door windows and entered the house again.
Melissa fired both pistols at him, hoping to scare him off. One shot nicked his left ear.
"He was screaming at us, calling me crazy for shooting him," Melissa said. "We didn't know if he had a gun or what."
Bart retrieved his pistol from Melissa and went to find the intruder, who ran out into the back yard holding his bleeding ear. Bart noticed an open bedroom window and realized that is how the intruder had gained entry in the first place. Bart went back into the house and into the living room. He saw the intruder coming at him.
"I told him to stop -- I said it over and over, and he kept on coming," Bart said.
When the intruder was about seven feet away, he lunged for Bart's gun. Bart fired, hitting him in the hip. The bullet exited, and nicked the Ardises' coffee table before a pair of jeans, among other pieces of folded laundry, stopped it. The intruder staggered toward the sofa.
"The only time I cursed was when he was going to lay down and bleed all over my couch," Melissa said. "Don't you dare bleed all over my (expletive) couch! He lay down on the floor."
Added Bart, "He became very compliant at that point."
Deputies entered the home and took control of Liberini, pinning him to the floor. Off to the hospital and, eventually, he'll go to jail.
End of incident.
What to most people would have seemed like moments of complete and utter chaos went in slow motion for the Ardises. Why? Because they are both educated and skilled in the use of firearms. They had a plan and stuck to it, right down to Carson taking refuge in the bathroom. When asked by Melissa if he was OK, Carson replied from behind the door, "I'm fine. I'm good."
"I was amazed how calm I was," Bart said. "I never got mad, never cussed."
"We were both calm," Melissa said. "We didn't know if (Liberini) had a gun or what. It never crossed my mind, getting shot. But I would have taken a bullet as long as he didn't get through me to the children."
Liberini was arrested in a Modesto public park last July for possession of drug paraphernalia, possessing a pipe bomb and for giving false names to law enforcement. This time, he'd eluded police in a car reported stolen in Modesto earlier Wednesday morning. They chased the car into Riverbank before breaking off the pursuit. Police believe that Liberini then drove into the country and broke into the Ardises' home.
Invaders, whether they're planning to burglarize, rob or take refuge from the cops, never know whether the homeowner is armed or committed to using the weapon in self-defense. Some intruders are too drugged out of their minds to care.
The intruder should consider himself fortunate. Yes, he picked a place owned by a member of a family of lifelong ranchers and hunters, who are skilled in using weapons. At the same time, because the Ardises are so capable, they are confident in their abilities to handle the guns and thus the circumstances.
Someone else might have panicked, shooting first and asking questions later. Neither of the Ardises shot to kill, they say, which they could have, considering that, by their account, the guy broke into their home three times in a matter of minutes, the third time after getting his ear pierced by a bullet.
Instead, they exercised their Second Amendment rights to bear arms and protect their home. They stuck to their plan. They defended themselves in their home, and the only person who got hurt was the one who had no business being there at all.
Contact Jeff Jardine at firstname.lastname@example.org.