BETHLEHEM, N.Y. – A homeowner in his underwear chased down and tackled one of four teens who rang his doorbell and fled in a late-night prank called "ding dong ditch," leading to charges against the homeowner but not the boy.
The teen was bloodied by the takedown. The homeowner, Daniel Van Plew, and the boy's family disagree over the amount of force used and about where the tackle occurred, which could make a difference under the laws that define self-defense.
Van Plew, 37, told police in this upscale suburb south of New York's capital that he was preparing to go to bed shortly after 10 p.m. Saturday when four teenagers pounded on his back door, rang his front doorbell and then ran.
Van Plew said he feared for the safety of his two children and his wife. He chased after the teens, caught the 14-year-old and then made him wait in his home while he called police. The teen suffered a cut on his elbow, a bruise over his eye and a bloody lip, according to the police report.
"There's no winner in this kind of a thing, right? It's just a bad deal," Van Plew told WCBS-TV.
Van Plew caught the boy on his property, according to a police report, but the boy's father told a newspaper that the boy was tackled off the property. New York self-defense laws give people more leeway when defending themselves on their own property.
There is also a discrepancy between Van Plew and the father over how much force was used and why.
The boy's father told the Times Union of Albany that Van Plew pinned his son's arm behind his back, applied pressure and threatened to kill him if he tried to escape. Van Plew's lawyer told the newspaper that the boy claimed to have a knife in his pocket and threatened to kill the homeowner. The boy didn't have a knife.
Van Plew, a pharmaceutical executive, has been charged with endangering a child and harassment. He must answer the misdemeanor and violation charges in town court on Aug. 3. He wasn't charged with assault because the boy's injuries were not serious enough, Bethlehem police Lt. Robert Berben said.
The teen, who is not being identified, faces no charges. He initially was charged with trespass, but that's a violation- level offense that can't be pursued against juveniles in family court, according to Berben.
The case has been referred to the Albany County District Attorney's office.
The home is in a relatively new subdivision of small but upscale homes that sell for $350,000 to $400,000. There was no answer at Van Plew's two-story house on Thursday.