ENCINITAS, Calif. - A North County drifter was behind bars Monday for allegedly attacking a homeowner during a predawn weekend robbery in a neighborhood near Batiquitos Lagoon.
The events that led to the violent encounter began at about 5 a.m. Saturday, when the victim, 62-year-old Fred Weston, was awakened by a security system on his property in the 500 block of La Costa Avenue in Encinitas, according to officials with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.
"Weston's one-acre property had been targeted several times in the past by people stealing copper cable, leading him to set up the system," Sgt. Joe Tomaiko said.
After arming himself with a shotgun, Weston went into his yard, where he allegedly found 43-year-old Chuck Edward Neil, a drifter from Escondido, trying to hide in the darkness. Weston ordered the intruder to stand up and get off the property.
Neil initially complied, but as the two men were walking toward a front gate, the transient grabbed the barrel of the gun and began trying to wrest it away, Tomaiko said.
Following a struggle during which the homeowner fired a shot into the air in an attempt to scare off the attacker, Neil was able to pull the weapon away and allegedly punched the victim in the face repeatedly, knocking him to the ground, after which he got on top of him and began choking him with the barrel of the shotgun, authorities said.
Alerted to the altercation by surveillance cameras, Weston's 58-year- old wife and 19-year-old son hurried outside and drove down their long driveway to intervene in the fight. Neil allegedly refused their demands to release Weston, at which point the teenager shocked the homeless man with an electric stun gun, incapacitating him. The family used a belt to bind Neil, then made a 911 call, the sergeant said.
Deputies arrested the suspect and determined that copper cable "had been cut and was being collected nearby on the property," Tomaiko said.
Weston was treated at a hospital for a broken nose, scrapes and bruises.
After being treated for minor injuries, Neil was booked into county jail in Vista on suspicion of robbery and grand theft, with the latter charge stemming from a previous alleged incident at the same home. He was being held on $120,000 bail pending arraignment, scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.