Fists of justice

April 2, 2009 8:44:08 PM PDT
One Liberty County man calls it "fist justice." When he walked into his backyard and saw a would-be burglar, the homeowner used the first thing he could find to defend his property: his hands. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

That homeowner has a message for other would-be thieves: "You steal, you die." Authorities don't necessarily agree with what he did, but they admit property owners sometimes have to do what they have to do.

Things have been pretty rough for a different Liberty County man this week. He started out as a burglary suspect, but ended up a hospital patient.

On Tuesday, a teenager came home from school to find her home ransacked with a busted back door . Then she noticed the burglar walking into her dad's backyard shop. She called 911 and her dad, 6' 8" Israel Palmer.

Working down the road, he was home in four minutes.

"I was going over a hundred miles an hour from my job site to my house," said Palmer.

When he pulled up, Derrick Ford, 20, was standing near his shop with a bag full of Palmer's stuff.

"I wasn't thinking about me. I was thinking about my daughter, but I was scared that he was going to do something," said Palmer.

So with a burglary suspect standing in his yard with his belongings, there was no need for introductions. Palmer simply deployed some bare-knuckle justice.

"I punched him just like this. Just like that," said Palmer.

That's when Ford found himself flat on the ground staring at the Texas sky with Palmer on top of him.

"While he was trying to knee me from the ground on up, I was trying to hold him down. Then I did several punches to his ribs and then a couple more to his head," said Palmer.

That was probably the last thing young Ford remembers from his alleged burglary of the Palmer's residence.

"He was out and asleep the whole time cops were here until they life-flighted him out," said Palmer.

It turns out Palmer's knuckles may have just busted up a small burglary ring.

"All these houses here have been broken into. Most of these houses have been broken into," said Palmer.

Cpl. Hugh Bishop of the Liberty County Sheriff's Office elaborated that Ford "has told us there are additional incidents that his is responsible for and we are trying to tie these together."

There's a twist here. Ford lives just a few blocks away.

"He lives right about a hundred yards from my house," said Palmer.

Palmer says he is not proud about what he did, but he stresses that there is no excuse for stealing, not even the recession.

"Yes, times are hard, but if you have to go flip a hamburger, so be it," said Palmer.

Ford was downgraded from critical to serious condition and he is now stable at Memorial Hermann Hospital. After his near-death experience at Palmer's place, he is now cooperating with investigators and we are told more arrests may follow.

Palmer, by the way, says he was able to recover most of his belongings.

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