“If we didn’t have our guns and have them loaded, we’d be telling a different story,” says Jeff Sagmeister. Sagmeister and his wife, both in their 70’s, were at home watching TV when they were confronted by a hostile intruder, later identified as Dechawn Wallace when police located him at a local hospital with gunshot wounds. Wallace was on parole and has an “extensive history of violence and crime.”
A parolee accused of breaking into a Hemet home and attacking two seniors, who shot the ex-con in self-defense, was charged Tuesday with attempted robbery and other felonies.
Dechawn Lewis Wallace, 27, of Moreno Valley, was arrested last Feb. 13 following the alleged break-in on State Street near the Ramona Bowl.
Wallace is has pleaded not guilty to charges of burglary — with an enhancement that the victim was disabled — attempted robbery and two counts of elder abuse, with a sentence-enhancing allegation of committing a serious crime within five years of parole from state prison.
The defendant is being held without bail at the Cois M. Byrd Detention Center in French Valley.
A follow-up story goes into more detail:
After fighting off — then shooting — an intruder in their Hemet mobile home, Jeff and Von Sagmeister have a message for their neighbors: be prepared.
The senior couple fought the man, shooting him several times after he broke into and assaulted them in their home in Echo Hills Mobile Estates in the 1700 block of South State Street shortly after midnight Tuesday, Feb. 13.
“People need to be aware and be ready,” Jeff Sagmeister said from an easy chair in his living room Friday, Feb. 17. “If we didn’t have our guns and have them loaded, we’d be telling a different story.”
Jeff Sagmeister, 71, was watching TV a little after midnight. Von, 75, his wife of 32 years was in bed. She came out to tell him she thought she saw someone crawling in the hallway.
Jeff Sagmeister grabbed a .22-caliber pistol he keeps near his chair. Then he found a man hiding in a bathroom.
“He jumped me as soon as he saw me,” Jeff Sagmeister said. “The fight was on, he whipped me around like a little girl.”
The two wrestled over the gun. Then Von Sagmeister got their .357 magnum and shot the man a number of times.
The suspect, Dechawn Wallace, a 27-year-old Moreno Valley man, eventually escaped but was arrested after he showed up at Riverside University Health System Medical Center in Moreno Valley, where he was treated for several non-life-threatening gunshot wounds, police said.
Wallace was booked on suspicion of a parole violation, home-invasion robbery, burglary, elder abuse and assault.
The couple, who retired to Hemet from Oregon 11 years ago to care for Jeff Sagmeister’s father, who has since died, wonder why the thief picked their modest mobile home in the nondescript park.
“What kind of moron is this?”‘ Jeff Sagmeister said, pointing around their nicely decorated, but small home. “Why in the hell would he pick this one?”
He suggests his neighbors get heavier doors and windows — and buy guns. He has four and wants to get another.
“When I think of the old ladies in here and the old men that are really feeble, without a gun they’d be done for,” Jeff Sagmeister said. “They have to be sitting here next to you and they have to be loaded.”
Though the message comes as the country again debates gun regulations after this week’s school shooting in Florida, Jeff Sagmeister said he and his wife may not be alive if not for his weapons.
“I feel very fortunate to be speaking with you,” Von Sagmeister said.