Dennis Fleming from New Hampshire fired one shot into the ground in the woods from his Smith & Wesson .357 which resulted in the capture of a serial burglar who had been terrorizing neighborhoods in his small New England town to satisfy his drug habit. Over ten crimes were solved due to his capture and the whole town hailed Fleming as a hero.
The whole town that is except for the county prosecutor, who had the police arrest Fleming for reckless conduct, a felony, confiscate all his guns and prepared to bring him to trial and lock him up.
Only one thing stood in the prosecutor’s way; nearly the entire country. As Fleming explained it in this interview (16:11), “People were up in arms. I got calls from Utah, many letters from California, New Mexico, Arizona. ‘Hey, if you need help with money for your defense, here’s my phone number, call me.’ It was just unbelievable.”
Dave Gahary, a former submariner in the U.S. Navy, is the host of AFP’s ‘Underground Interview’ series.
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Public Support for N.H. Crime Fighter Beats Back Gungrabbing Prosecutors
• Citizens across America were shocked by treatment of local hero
By Dave Gahary
A 61-year-old New Hampshire man who single-handedly captured a serial burglar in his town of Farmington, was arrested and charged with a felony and forced to surrender all his guns, for firing one shot into the ground in the woods which resulted in the capture of a serial burglar who had been terrorizing neighborhoods in this small New England town to satisfy his drug habit.
Dennis Fleming, who has lived in New Hampshire on the family farm for 40 years had just returned from his daughter’s for lunch at about 1:45 p.m. and noticed his house was ransacked. He looked around the house to see if anything important was missing and went outside and saw a guy on the road with a knapsack over his shoulder. Going back inside, he grabbed his Smith & Wesson .357 and took a walk to talk to the neighbors and heard some noise and saw someone fall out a window of a nearby home. The thief stumbled within 10 to 12 feet from Fleming.
On March 16, AMERICAN FREE PRESS conducted an interview with Mr. Fleming to gain more insight into this case that attracted national attention and outrage.
Mr. Fleming explained how he met the man who was just in his home.
“He come out, took a step or two towards me, never saw me. I fired into the ground and told him ‘stop right there, get down on the ground. If you move I’ll shoot you.’ He was very compliant from then on.”
After a few minutes, four squad cars arrived and took the suspect into custody. From the several 911 calls that were placed, police knew Fleming had fired his weapon and one approached him at the scene.
Mr. Fleming explained. “He took me off to the side and he said ‘even though I’m not inclined to charge you, it’s not gonna be up to me.’”
AFP asked why he didn’t just call the police.
“I didn’t call the police first. For one thing I thought he was gone and there’s no sense calling the police. We’re at the far end of town. When I caught him he was a hundred feet from the town line. If he got over that town line and over a little hill a hundred feet beyond that, he’d had been gone forever. I figured if I called the cops, they would never get here in time. So I went looking for him, which is the wrong thing to do.”
“And then I called the police at 7:30 that night to ask if this guy was gonna be released on bail, ‘cause I was worried about a vendetta. He said ‘no, but I’m making out paperwork now, we’re gonna have to arrest you for reckless conduct.’”
“I didn’t realize at the time that was gonna be a felony. I shot into the ground. I guess I was wrong.”
“I drove up to the police station about 9:30 that night, they explained the whole thing that they’re gonna have to arrest me, did the fingerprinting, interviewed me, video and audio, read me my rights and all that stuff. That was about an hour and-a-half, two hours. Then they followed me home and grabbed all my guns. ‘Cause as a charged felon you’re not supposed to have firearms.”
AFP asked how many guns he has.
“I have seven rifles and my one handgun.”
AFP asked if he had ever been arrested before.
“Oh jeez, no. I don’t even speed.”
“They [the cops] left just about midnight. I tried to go to sleep. That was pretty hard, because I was all cranked up.”
The next day a TV news crew showed up wanting to interview Fleming.
Fleming described the news crew’s reaction to meeting him. “You’re a hero, we want to interview you.”
“I’m kinda surprised it went that far,” said Fleming.
“Then I get contacted from Boston the next day and calls from Chicago to do radio interviews. I said ‘what is going on?!’ I didn’t realize just what a hot-button issue this turned out to be. I had no idea it was gonna be like this. People were up in arms. I got calls from Utah, many letters from California, New Mexico, Arizona. ‘Hey, if you need help with money for your defense, here’s my phone number, call me.’ It was just unbelievable.”
AFP asked if the calls and letters were still coming in.
“No, but I’m having people recognize me that I’ve never even seen before, coming up shaking my hand in Walmart or the grocery store.”
AFP asked what happened next, after all the news interviews ended.
“A girl I’d known for a long time, a friend of mine’s daughter, stopped in with a letter from a lawyer, saying, ‘look, this guy will represent you for nothing.’ Here’s his number. So I called him.”
When Fleming went to see the attorney, he found out the county prosecutor had dropped all charges.
“I was pretty sure in my heart they would never indict me for it,” said Fleming.
“Within an hour-and-a-half of them dropping the charges, the Farmington police department called me, ‘your weapons are ready, you can come up and get ‘em anytime you want.’ So that same day I went up and got all my guns back.”
“I could not believe the support I got from everywhere. Not just in New Hampshire, not just in my town, but New England, the country! It was just unbelievable.”
“One whole day in our local newspaper was letters from all over the country, I mean, none in New Hampshire.”
“The police chief and the county prosecutor received a lot of, we’ll say threats. People were really emotionally fired up over this.”
To further illustrate the absurdity of arresting Fleming, the burglar confessed to robbing several other homes.
“He admitted to the police that he was an addict,” explained Fleming, and also fessed up to other robberies.
“So they solved at least 10 other burglaries besides these two with that one guy. He admitted to 10 more, who knows how many beyond that he actually committed.”
It was all thanks to you, said AFP.
“Well I was the one who caught him, yeah. He might have been eventually caught, but they did solve a few burglaries and I’d like to think I was a part of that.”
Fleming has a warning for people across the country.
“You’ve gotta watch your neighborhoods because it’s impossible for the police to see burglars, unless they have an eyewitness or they get caught in the act. They’re in, nobody’s home, and they’re out. These guys are very hard to catch and I’m glad I got this guy off the street, ‘cause he’s got a long record.”
AFP asked if this arrest and felony charge will be on his record.
“I signed the paperwork for my lawyer to get it annulled. And I don’t think that’s gonna be a problem at all because everybody’s behind me, even law enforcement. That should all be gone by the first part of April.”
“I want to thank everyone out there that I am very much appreciative of the support I got from across the country. I mean it’s just been unbelievable and thank you so, so much.”