David Hartmann awoke to a bizarre image on March 4. The Skokie resident saw a large man tearing, kicking and destroying his neighbor's $300 steel mailbox at 3 a.m.
The incident occurred in the 7800 block of East Prairie Road, and Hartmann, along with several of his neighbors, was already dealing with incidents of vandalism for some time.
In December, Don Nilles, another neighbor, had his Christmas decoration stolen and his property vandalized. There were also other reports that two men were casing homes for potential burglaries in February.
So, Hartmann called the police, stayed on the line with the dispatcher and followed the suspect down the street as he left the area.
“I made sure to keep myself a half a block away from him and police were on the line with me the entire time,” Hartmann told Skokie Patch. “We’ve just had enough.”
Skokie police arrived several minutes later and spotted Jordan A. Barnes, 22, of the 7600 block of East Prairie Road, walking southbound in the general area of the alleged crime.
According to the report, officers asked Barnes to stop, at which point he turned around, clenched his fists and began skipping toward police as if he was going to attack them.
Barnes ultimately complied, however, and proceeded to lie down on the ground where he was arrested and charged with one count of criminal damage to property. All in all, two mailboxes were destroyed, and the value of both items was placed at around $600.
Sending a message
Yet for the five neighbors, the arrest wasn’t enough. The men wanted to send a message to Barnes and the group got together and appeared in court during his hearing on Thursday.
“We saw someone checking out our houses,” said Jim Abram, who also lives on the 7800 block of East Prairie Road and was one of the five residents in court. “We had to draw the line somewhere and make our presence known.”
Nilles, Abram's neighbor and longtime friend, was a former Green Beret during the Vietnam War. Hartmann is a certified public accountant, and Feliciano Garcia, who also had his mailbox destroyed that morning, owns a construction business.
“You don’t want to mess with these guys,” said Brian Nilles, Don’s 27-year-old son. “It was a classic citizen’s arrest.”
Barnes appeared before Cook County Circuit Court Judge Earl Hoffenberg at the Skokie Courthouse on Thursday. Standing at 6-foot-2 and about 220 pounds, the alleged suspect stood in his blue medical scrubs in front of the judge.
In the end, Barnes was given a continuance for the case as the district attorney wanted to file additional charges.
“Do not have any contact with these people,” Hoffenberg told Barnes after the continuance was issued.
Yet a puzzled Barnes spoke up and asked the judge how that was possible: He lives down the street from the alleged victims and takes a nearby bus on Oakton Street daily to attend school in downtown Skokie.
“Then I would suggest you walk on another street from now on,” Hoffenberg said.
After the hearing, Barnes told Skokie Patch that he was innocent and never committed the alleged crime.
“I didn’t do it,” he said. “I was stopped because I was the only one in the area at 3 a.m.”
His next court date is set for April 26.
Note: View more pictures by clicking "view images" on the picture in the upper right corner.