July 1, 2008, 9:49PM
Horn: 'I would never advocate anyone doing what I did'

Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

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PDF versions of reports released today by the Harris Co. Medical Examiner's Office.
Diego Ortiz
Hernando Riascos Torres

Quanell X: 'What Joe Horn did was a criminal act', chron.com,joe horn,texas,houston,houston chronicle,quanell x, Quanell X, community leaders and family members protest a Harris County grand jury's decision not to indict Joe Horn. Video by Jason Witmer. July 1, 2008.Reaction to the Joe Horn decision, shooting,houston,texas,houston chronicle,joe horn,grand jury,chron.com, Houstonians talk about the grand jury's decision that Joe Horn should not be charged with a crime for killing two suspected burglars outside his neighbor's Pasadena home. Video by Meg Loucks and Karen Warren. June 30, 2008.Joe Horn cleared in Pasadena shooting, houston,houston chronicle,texas,chron.com, Joe Horn's lawyer talks after a Harris County grand jury decided that Horn should not be charged for killing two suspected burglars outside his neighbor's home in Pasadena last fall. Video by Dale Lezon, edited by Juan Elizondo. June 30, 2008.
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The shooting of two burglary suspects has sparked heated debate about property rights, gun control and other issues.
The voice of Joe Horn on the infamous 911 tape, the one telling police he wasn't going to let the men burglarizing his neighbors' house get away, that he was "gonna shoot" them, is not the voice of the real Joe Horn, he told the Houston Chronicle Tuesday.

Nor is the person who grabbed his 12-gauge shotgun, went outside his house against orders, pumped a shell into the chamber and shot the men down after telling them "move, you're dead," the real Joe Horn.

The real Joe Horn, he insisted in an exclusive interview the day after he was cleared by a Harris County Grand Jury in the deaths of Diego Ortiz and Hernando Riascos Torres, is just a boring retired engineer.

And a 61-year-old grandfather who, paralyzed by fear that afternoon on Nov. 14 last year, made a decision that has haunted him since, a decision he said he would take back if he could.

"I would never advocate anyone doing what I did," Horn said from his attorney's west Houston home. "We are not geared for that."

Horn's decision to gun down the two unemployed illegal immigrants from Colombia rocketed him from his suburban obscurity into a deeply divided vortex of public scrutiny. He has been hailed on the one side as a hero, as the kind of neighbor anyone would want; on the other as nothing more than a vigilante taking the law into his own hands.

In a calm, soft-spoken voice, Horn said Tuesday he was neither — not a man worthy of praise, nor one who merits scorn.

"I know what a hero is and that's not me," he said. "I'm a human being that was in a situation that I'd never been in before and I didn't want to die."

Horn's account of the events leading up to the shootings differs sharply in parts with what can be heard on the tape of the call he made to 911 shortly after seeing the men allegedly breaking into his neighbor's house.

He said he was upstairs in the gameroom of his house tinkering with a computer when the quietness of the Village Grove East subdivision in Pasadena was shattered by the sound of breaking glass. He instinctively blamed the family cat, he said, but then realized the noise had come from outside.

He looked out the window and saw two men, both dressed in dark green T-shirts, blue jeans and tennis shoes, breaking into his neighbor's home through a block glass window.

He called 911 on his cell phone.

He said he started getting scared. He didn't know who the men were, nor if his neighbors were home and were in danger. Was his home the next target?

He went to get a shotgun he kept in a soft-sided leather case on the floorboard of his car.

"All I was thinking was, 'oh my God.' " he said. "You lose track of time. You don't ever think about that. You start thinking about all kinds of things. What if little Eddie was home alone next door? What if it was my home and I'm sleeping and I didn't even hear them come in? I was feeling helpless."

From his upstairs bedrooom window, Horn said he saw the men leave his neighbors' home and walk around the back of the house where he couldn't see them.

While still on the phone with the 911 dispatcher, he said he went downstairs with the goal of getting a description of the men to give police.

But, according to the transcript, he provided the dispatcher with a far different motive:

Operator: Mr Horn, do not go out

the house.

Horn: I'm sorry. This ain't right,


Operator: You're going to get

yourself shot if you go outside that

house with that gun. I don't care

what you think. Stay in the house.

Horn: You wanna make a bet? I'm

gonna kill 'em

As he was going downstairs, Horn said the fear and adrenaline rush was intense.

"I'm thinking if they go out the front door, I can't see them at all," he said. His plan was to look out the front door window to get a better angle of his neighbor's house. Seeing nothing he ventured outside.

He said he took one step off his front porch and saw nothing. "I felt great. I was so relieved that I didn't see anything," he said. "I thought it's over with."

Then he saw the men come around the corner and head into his front yard. Horn had his cell phone in his front shirt pocket while he handled the shotgun.

"It went from I'm glad it's all over to instant fear," he said.

He shouted the words he now regrets, "Move, you're dead." The men — about 10 feet and 13 feet from him — stopped immediately. They looked at one another and said nothing.

"There was no fear in their eyes," Horn said.

One of them, believed to be Torres, started to charge him, Horn said. He fired.

"There was no time to aim," Horn said. "To this day, I still don't know where I shot."

Horn said he turned slightly toward the right and fired toward the second man, Ortiz, who ran at a fast pace back in the direction of his neighbor's house. Torres remained in his yard and was walking back toward Horn. He fired a third shot.

Horn didn't think he had struck either one.

"I went inside because the guy (Ortiz) disappeared," Horn said. "I thought he was behind the house. That's why I was desperate for the police to get there."

A police car came to a screeching halt in front of his house. An officer drew his gun and ordered him "on the ground."

Horn, who still had his cell phone to his ear, dropped to the ground face first and was handcuffed.

During the ensuing commotion, Horn said he was numb. He was eventually allowed to sit up and saw one of the men on the ground across the street.

"I thought I scared him enough to fall to the ground," Horn said.

It wasn't until he overheard one officer explain to another that "there were two burglars and this man just killed them" that he realized the two men were dead.

The moment was surreal.

"It was like nothing I've ever felt. It was like it wasn't really happening. Just numb."


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