Athens Review, Athens, Texas

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January 26, 2011

Retired judge holds alleged thieves at gunpoint

DIXIE INN, La. — A retired Texas judge with a lifetime in law enforcement says he interrupted a copper theft and held two men at gunpoint until Webster Parish deputies arrived.

Ralph Yarborough, 73, told the Minden Press-Herald that his neighbor called to tell him that a vehicle had dropped off two men at the vacant house where his wife was born. He said he got a gun and sneaked into the house, heard people in the attic and yelled for them to come down.

The two men did not immediately obey Yarborough's command, which prompted another demand that they exit the attic, where they had been stripping copper wiring. This time, he added if they didn't comply, he would start shooting holes in the ceiling.

After the men exited the attic, Yarborough took them outside at gunpoint and, in a prearranged plan with his neighbor, Dennis Laborde, fired a shot to signal he needed assistance.

"I kept a distance of eight to 10 feet," said Yarborough. "They were both armed with knives."

Laborde called 911 and arrived shortly afterward, also armed. Within minutes, Webster Parish Capt. Don Smith and deputies Chuck Clark and Dillard Sikes arrived.

The Webster Parish Sheriff's Office said Steven Aron Studdard, 18, of Princeton and Scott Allen Shockley, 31, of Dixie Inn were booked Friday with simple burglary.

Yarborough said if Studdard or Shockley had made a move, he would have shot them.

"Federal law says if you are in fear for your life, you have the right to use deadly force," said Yarborough, who recently underwent back surgery. "If you find someone, a burglar, in your home, you better be in fear for your life. You've got to be willing to face death when you go into a situation like this."

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