When three masked men crashed through the back door of Dennis Thomas’ home in Fairburn at 4:15 a.m. Thursday demanding cash, Thomas, who is paralyzed and uses a wheelchair, fought back.
Seeing that at least two of the intruders were armed with handguns, Thomas grabbed his own gun and engaged the three in a fierce gunbattle, according to Fairburn police. He was shot at least seven times.
Sgt. Anthony Bazydlo, a spokesman for the Police Department, said Thomas “may have actually hit one of the suspects during the course of the gunfight.”
When the shooting began, Thomas’ uncle Frank Johnson, who was asleep in another bedroom and unarmed, hid in a closet to escape the gunfire.
“I heard the door crash, and then I heard gunfire,” Johnson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I didn’t know what else to do but get in the closet.”
Johnson said he recently moved from Louisiana to help his 39-year-old nephew, who was paralyzed from the waist down after being shot in the back “some years ago” in Louisiana. He was asleep in a front bedroom while Thomas slept in a back room of the house on Greenwood Trace.
“I was in the bed asleep, and I heard a crash,” Thomas told Channel 2 Action News in a phone interview from his room at Grady Memorial Hospital.
Thomas told Channel 2 that he woke up with a gun to his head and the intruders demanding money.
“I said, ‘Man, I am in a wheelchair, come on,’ ” Thomas said. “I ain’t got no money. I live month to month paying the bills.”
He said he had his gun under his pillow, and when the intruders started shooting, “I started shooting, too.”
Johnson was relieved to see his nephew.
“I didn’t come out of the closet until he came up there where I was in the wheelchair, and I saw a bullet hole in his hand and he had a couple in his chest,” Johnson said. “He said they were gone and there wasn’t anything else for me to do but call 911.”
Despite being shot seven times, Thomas was in stable condition at Grady later Thursday morning after undergoing surgery. He told Channel 2 he hoped to be released from the hospital quickly.
Police made no arrests Thursday and had no good description of the intruders, since they were all wearing ski masks. Bazydlo said the men possibly had a getaway vehicle parked on a nearby street in the well-kept neighborhood off Senoia Road.
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