By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
People know each other in small towns. Neighbors wave as they drive by, kids play and familiar faces are common. As one CDCR employee was driving through his town recently, an out-of-the-ordinary guy walking along the roadside caught his attention. The employee, trusting his gut instincts, ended up stopping a home invasion and possible assault on an older woman.
Aug. 5, 2016, was like most other days for Fred Bird, a plumber II at California Correctional Center in Susanville. Around 6 p.m., he was driving through Janesville on the way to the town’s only store when he spotted a suspicious looking man walking along the roadway.
“Janesville is on the outskirts of Susanville and it’s small and tight-knit. Everybody knows everybody,” Bird said. “There was this fella walking down the road and I’ve never seen him before. I looked in my rear-view mirror as I passed and saw him get into a car.”
Bird was acquainted with the people who own the car, which was parked in front of their house on the town’s main street.
“I thought, ‘This isn’t right.’ So I stopped, backed up and thought maybe he was a relative from out of town or something. Then I saw him get out of the vehicle, look around kind of weird, then go into their house,” he said.
Bird got out of his car and went along the side of the house and heard the woman screaming from inside the home. Entering from the back door, Bird ran inside the house where he was met by the intruder. The man grabbed a heavy mug and began threatening Bird and the homeowner.
Undeterred, Bird chased the man to the front door. The intruder spun around and started swinging the mug, but Bird was able to tackle him. They fell over the front porch handrail and Bird subdued him using “submission type holds,” according to a report. The homeowner and neighbors called 911. Lassen County Sheriff’s deputies arrived and took the man into custody.
Bird said he didn’t realize the gravity of the situation until later. As someone told Bird, the woman was home alone at the time of the invasion. If Bird hadn’t intervened, her husband could have come home to find his wife dead or severely injured.
Bird is a laid-back kind of guy, he said, and isn’t looking for recognition or pats on the back. After all, neighbors in a small town look out for each other.