SIDNEY — Eric Hewett didn’t know whether his mother, Audrey Hewett, would be alive or dead when he ran full speed into her home.
Audrey had called him in a panic on the night of Sunday, March 12, to say that a stranger was breaking into her home on Lyons Road in Sidney, and he immediately grabbed his compact Ruger handgun, sped to her home in his Toyota Camry and ran in through the garage entrance.
“I yelled, ‘I have a gun; get out of this house! Get out of this house!'” Eric said during an interview this week. “The next thing I know, I was being attacked.”
In the fight that followed, a hammer-wielding burglar swung at him. Hewett suffered a concussion and a skull fracture, among other injuries, and blood was pouring down one side of his face. But he managed to shoot his alleged assailant in the chest and, after more wrestling, held him at gunpoint until help could arrive.
“I managed to get him pinned in a position I was happy holding him in until police showed up, with the gun on him,” Eric said. “I was telling him not to move and telling him what was going to happen to him if he did, because I didn’t care at that point. It was him or me.”
The Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office later identified the burglar suspect as 21-year-old Dreaquan Foster, of Providence, Rhode Island. Foster was still in the hospital late last week, under 24-hour guard in the intensive care unit at MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta.
On Friday, two days after Eric Hewett left the hospital — and just five days into what may be a long recovery — he was sitting next to his mother, who was not injured that night, in the living room of her home.
Though Eric, 47, was seriously hurt and Audrey, 84, was shaken up after the alleged home invasion March 12, Eric said she did the right thing by calling him right away, and she said he might have saved her life by coming right over.
FIGHT FOR THE GUN
According to Audrey, the man who entered her home around 7 p.m. that night first knocked on her front door. He asked to use the telephone, Audrey said, but she doesn’t let strangers into the home when she’s alone and told him to look elsewhere.
At that point, Audrey said during the interview, Foster got angry, banged on her front door and finally climbed a snowbank and broke through the bay window on the front of her home. She immediately called her son and retreated into her bedroom, continuing to speak on the phone with Eric’s wife, Patty Hewett, who called 911 at 7:11 p.m. using a different phone. The first officers arrived at the house at 7:25 p.m., according to the Kennebec County sheriff’s dispatch log.
Eric, who lives just a few hundred feet away from his mother’s home, said that he rushed over and was passing through her kitchen when Foster, who had been trying to break into Audrey’s bedroom, intercepted him. According to a news release from the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office, Foster then hit Eric on the head with “a blunt instrument.”
Foster landed one solid strike on the left side of Eric’s head with the object, then a weaker second strike before Eric fell onto his back, Eric said. He didn’t see the weapon, but Audrey said she thought it was a carpentry hammer that didn’t belong to the family and that she later found lying on the kitchen floor.
“He was coming at me again with it, and that’s when I managed to get the gun pointed up at him and I fired at him,” Eric said. “I didn’t know if I hit him or not, but evidently I did, because his interest became immediately the firearm at that point. He dropped the hammer, or I assume he dropped it. All of a sudden there was a fight for the gun.”
Foster grappled for the semiautomatic pistol, an LCP .380, but Eric said he held on to it tightly. Their scuffle carried them into Audrey’s bathroom, where, Eric said, he managed to flip on top of Foster and hold him down.
Only then, Eric said, did he hear his mother in the other room and confirm that she was safe — and did she confirm the same about him.
“I could hear him out there wrestling, and I thought, ‘Oh God, don’t hurt Eric,'” Audrey said. “I was so scared. … I was shaking like a leaf all over.”
The ordeal ended when a police officer entered the bathroom, pointed an assault rifle just beyond the two men and told Eric to secure or put away his weapon. He set the pistol aside, he said, then crawled out of the bathroom and waited for rescue workers to arrive.
“I was never so happy to see the muzzle of a police assault rifle in my life,” Eric said.
Police say Foster will be arrested upon his release from the hospital, but they haven’t supplied a photo of him or indicated what he could be charged with.
Besides saying that Foster was shot in the chest, police also haven’t provided information about his medical condition.
Now, Eric and Audrey said, they are grateful to both the police and rescue workers who arrived the night of the intrusion and the friends, neighbors and family members who have offered to help them after the home invasion. Among other things, neighbors have helped them nail a green tarpaulin over the bay window that was broken and clear snow that fell during the Tuesday blizzard.
But Eric, who normally works as a nurse at Inland Hospital in Waterville, said rural Maine homeowners should take their ordeal — and other recent episodes of strangers entering central Maine homes, sometimes to violent ends — as a lesson.
Though Eric was seriously injured, he said his family ultimately fared as well as they could have following a home invasion because they were prepared to defend themselves.
They have never experienced serious crime in their Sidney neighborhood, which is just off Interstate 95.
Eric grew up in the single-story home where his mother now lives alone, after her husband died more than 10 years ago. The family owns 20 acres there, and Eric’s home is several hundred feet from hers. But Eric said that items were stolen from his house about six years ago, and two years ago a stranger tried to enter his home when his daughter was home alone.
Eric, a hunter who has been shooting guns since he was about 6 years old, said he has had a permit to carry a concealed firearm for the last six years or so. He also has instructed his mother to go to her bedroom if someone breaks into her home, and thinks that may have saved her last weekend.
“Our police departments, our responders, I think they all do a great job,” Eric said. “I’m totally impressed with them. I have nothing bad to say about any of them; they have treated me great through all of this.”
“But the truth of the matter is,” he continued, “it takes some time to get where they need to be; and on that day, if I hadn’t happened to be home, if (Audrey) hadn’t called me first, there could have been a very different outcome. … If you haven’t taken measures to prepare, to be able to survive when you have circumstances like this arise, then you’re at a disadvantage.
“I’m just glad that we’re at a point where we can handle this.”
Charles Eichacker — 621-5642