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Grand Forks homeowner hits burglar with butt of gun, shoots at him as he runs away

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Waking to the sound of creaking floorboards made by a burglar early Thursday in his north Grand Forks house, Greg Kaml grabbed the revolver he keeps for such a time.

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He confronted the stranger, who packed a pistol, hit him over the head with the gun butt, chased him outside and shot twice as the man ran away.

Kaml, 50, said he missed but "dented" the man's head with the gun butt.

He called police, who quickly found Jared Christensen, 24, an experienced burglar, nearby in an alley, showing evidence of head wounds consistent with Kaml's account, said Lt. Mike Ferguson.

It happened about 3:40 a.m. Thursday at 1703 11th Ave. N.

Nobody was hit by the two shots Kaml fired, police and Kaml agreed. But police took his .45 caliber Colt M1917 pending an investigation into the shooting, Ferguson said.

It turned out the pistol Christensen carried is a pellet gun.

Assistant State's Attorney Tom Falck was not available Thursday to talk about the investigation into the shooting.

Christensen, however, was charged by Falck.

Crime record

On Thursday, Christensen appeared via TV from the Grand Forks County jail in state district court on a felony burglary charge that carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

He also faces misdemeanor charges of carrying a concealed weapon -- the pellet pistol -- and possessing marijuana and a pipe to smoke it.

By chance, Christensen already had been set to be in court Thursday on a charge of not paying fines from an earlier misdemeanor of driving with a suspended license.

He told District Judge Lawrence Jahnke he hadn't made any payments because "I just started working recently, about a month ago."

On the new charges, Falck asked for a bond of $10,000, cash or surety, saying Christensen had "an extensive criminal history" in Minnesota.

Christensen, whose address is Nielsville, Minn., south of Crookston, has several convictions in Minnesota, including one in 2010 for burglary in Polk County for which he was sentenced to 90 days in jail and five years probation, according to court records.

Judge Jahnke scheduled Christensen's preliminary hearing on the new charges for Feb. 20.

'Snap, snap'

Police canvassed the neighborhood to make sure nobody and no houses were hit by Kaml's shots, Ferguson said.

Footprints in the snow showed police had looked closely at nearby trees on the berm for bullets or bullet holes.

Alex Randle lives a few houses to the west and across the street. He said he got up about 5 a.m. to walk his dog and saw police searching the area. They told him about the incident and asked if he had heard anything; he had not.

Walter Wockovich lives across the street from Kaml's house. He said he woke up about the time of the shooting. "All I heard was snap, snap."

He didn't look out to see what was going on.

Confrontation

Kaml said he woke up when he heard someone walking on the hardwood floor above his bedroom. His only roommate was not due back until the weekend, so he was suspicious.

The burglar was just coming out of his roommate's bedroom with a laptop inside his jacket, when Kaml confronted him.

"I was pointing my .45 at him and told him to stop and get on the floor and he just kept coming right at me," Kaml said. "We danced round the living room and kitchen a little bit. I've got a couple of purple toes; I'm not sure if he stomped on them or dropped the laptop on them."

"He kept telling me he was mentally ill and he just wanted to leave," Kaml said. "I had him by the jacket and had the .45 pressed against his chest. Then he pulled a pistol out of his pocket."

Holding his six-shot revolver by its wooden handle grips, Kaml said he hit Christensen in the head two or three times with the butt of the handle. "I was trying to knock him out."

The intruder had gotten in the unlocked kitchen door and was leaving the same way.

"I caught up to him and just whaled on the back of his head with the .45, but it didn't put him down," Kaml said. "That's why I think he was cranked up on something. His eyes looked like it. He took off, ran off the deck and off down the sidewalk."

"He had a gun," Kaml said. "I felt he was going to go and raid somebody else's house."

"I said 'Stop or I'm going to shoot you,'" Kaml said. "He kept running so I shot at him two times. After the first shot, he went from about 15 miles an hour to about 70."

Kaml said he figures Christensen was about 80 yards away when he shot. "That's a long shot for a revolver. But I do a lot of target shooting."

Freaked out

Neither shot hit Christensen; at least one slug hit a big cottonwood tree in a neighbor's front berm.

Police found where one slug had gone through the cottonwood's bark, apparently bouncing off the tree itself, leaving some shrapnel, Kaml said.

A crane operator who grew up in Badger, Minn., Kaml said he spends a lot of time hunting and fishing and target shooting, but he's never had to use a gun for self -defense before.

"It will freak you out a little bit," he said of waking up to a burglar in his home. "I can guarantee you all my doors will be locked from now on."

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