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Burglary halted with a gun
Athens man captures suspect, accidentally shoots window of neighboring cleaners

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com 340-2445

ATHENS — After two nights of someone breaking into his downtown business and stealing antiques, Steve Bauer armed himself with a plastic cola bottle and a .44 Magnum and spent Wednesday night at his office.

Bauer's son knew his father was staying the night at the office to protect his property.

"My son was leaving his girlfriend's house about midnight and saw all the cop cars," Bauer said. "He said he thought, 'Daddy's done shot somebody.' "

Bauer, 51, put the cola bottle at the back door so it would make a noise when opened. He laid on a cot in a room adjacent to his office, the gun within reach.

His office, Steve Bauer Properties, is a house on North Clinton Street across from Calvin's Cleaners.

"I fell asleep sometime after 11," he said. "I woke up when I heard the bottle fall. I could hear papers shuffling in my office."

Bauer peeked into his office and saw a woman with a flashlight looking through his desk. He asked the woman what she was doing, and the woman called him by name and replied that she was looking for a house to rent.

Bauer buys, sells and rents property.

"I said, 'Ma'am, it's midnight, and you have a flashlight. I don't believe so. I believe you need to lay down on the ground.'"

Bauer called Athens police. While he was on the phone, he heard someone outside. The woman's boyfriend was in a pickup truck.

"I ordered him to get out and put his hands on the truck," Bauer said. "I told him I had a gun and was on the phone with police, but he cranked the truck and took off."

Trying to shoot at tires

Bauer shot at the truck's back tires. A bullet ricocheted off the roadway and hit a window at Calvin's Cleaners.

"I wish I hadn't shot, but it was a spur-of-the-moment thing," Bauer said. "I thought he was going to plumb get away."

Bauer said police responded quickly.

"I've got to thank them for doing an outstanding job," he said. "Floyd Johnson (lieutenant) was the investigator, and he did a good job. I want them all to know I'm thankful."

An officer handcuffed the woman, who remained on the floor, while others searched for the pickup.

"A .44 Magnum's a big gun," Bauer said. "It probably looked like a cannon to her. I think it scared her into staying put."

Capt. Marty Bruce said officer Jay Looney spotted the pickup at Beaty and Pryor streets and tried to stop the driver. The driver refused and drove to his home at 707 Frazier St.

Bruce identified the driver as 46-year-old Daniel Stubbs. Bruce identified Stubbs' girlfriend as Daphne Watkins, 43, of 1205 Seventh Ave.

Police charged Stubbs with felony driving under the influence, possession of a controlled substance for allegedly having four Xanax pills, third-degree burglary, attempting to elude, driving with a suspended license and having an open container.

Stubbs is out of the Limestone County Jail on $8,000 bond.

Police charged Watkins with two counts of third-degree burglary. She is out of jail on $4,000 bond.

Bauer said police have recovered most of his antiques, such as Tiffany lamps, cuckoo clocks and jewelry. Police also recovered silver nickels that were a gift from his uncle.

Bauer theorized Stubbs targeted his office because the two have attended some of the same auctions.

"I don't think they've ever come into my office for business, but they probably recognized me from those auctions and realized I had antiques," he said.

Bauer said the entire incident happened so fast that he didn't have time to be afraid.

"I was disgusted more than anything," he said. "I wanted to put a good bit of fear into whoever was doing this. If more people thought like that, we'd probably have less crime."

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