The other night, Russ Dillingham’s wife told him that she had spotted a someone skulking around a neighbor’s house. Dillingham, chief photographer for the paper in Lewiston, Maine, videotaped what happened when he came across the man on his way home.
Dillingham asked about the nail gun in the man’s hand and demanded his name. When the man told Dillingham, “I don’t know you,” the photographer responded, “No, but I know you. You were just in my neighbor’s house looking for something to steal. And it looks like you found something.”
The man ran off when Dillingham told him he was making a citizen’s arrest, but police recognized him from Dillingham’s video and arrested him.
Also: The man apparently was a boxer. “He was a pretty good boxer,” Dillingham told me via email. Photographer “Daryn Slover, who sits next to me, reminded me he did a story on him when he was a really good boxer. I said I wasn’t going to duke it out with him, and I was pretty sure I could run faster than him.”
Dillingham explained to a Sun Journal colleague why he stopped the man:
“Day after day I read about these guys breaking into people’s homes and getting away with it,” Dillingham said of why he confronted the man. “You just feel violated. It wasn’t my house, but it was my neighbor’s.”
He told me more in an email:
I know he could have had a gun and all, but I just couldn’t do nothing. I have a track record of getting involved and many journalists say I am not supposed to get involved. Again I will say that while I try to abide by journalistic principles, and do 99% of the time, but I can not sit idle when I see and injustice or crisis.
I believe that being a good citizen and doing what I think is right far outweighs any rules of journalism. I would always choose to help somebody in need rather than hide behind my camera looking for a prize-winning photo or video while a person’s life may be in jeopardy.
I have [a] conscience and that guides me and governs my behavior, not the rules of my job. I am sure that will spark some heated conversations and I welcome any and all questions.
The Sun Journal reports that the man was arrested for a probation violation; police haven’t found the owner of the nail gun.
Here’s the video: