A home invasion robbery that could have ended deadly for an elderly South Carolina couple ended when the husband, an 82-year-old Vietnam veteran, beat his wife’s assailant to death.
The incident occurred Monday afternoon in the small community of Jackson, which is just a short drive across the state line from Augusta, Georgia.
Police said 61-year-old Harold L. Runnels Jr. knocked on the back door of Herbert and Lois Parrish’s house around noon and claimed he was looking for a lost dog, WJBF-TV reported.
According to police, there was no dog — Runnels was there to harm the couple.
WJBF reported that when Lois Parrish opened the door, Runnels forced his way in with a large knife and began a vicious assault, according to police. He allegedly knocked the 79-year-old to the ground after striking her in the head with the handle of the knife.
Herbert, who is apparently a spry 82, wasn’t about to let his sweetheart be violated, not without putting up a fight. He met the attacker’s violence with greater force.
Both Lois and Herbert explained how the situation unfolded to Columbia, South Carolina, Fox affiliate WACH-TV.
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“I opened the door and he said he was looking for his little white chihuahua and wanted to know if I saw it. I told him, no, I didn’t,” Lois said.
The subsequent attack was so vicious that Herbert Parrish didn’t think either of them would survive.
“I felt, ‘We’re gone. He’s going to kill us and take what he can take,'” Herbert said. “He was not going to go out that door and leave us alive. That’s the way I felt. That’s why I said, ‘I’ve got to do something quick and get the edge on him. Get the advantage on him.'”
The decorated Vietnam veteran jumped into action by grabbing a shotgun he had kept mounted on a wall near his back door. Without ever pulling the trigger, he neutralized the assailant, beating Runnels with the gun until he was no longer a threat.
“I started hitting him in the head with the barrel and I know I must have hit him at least 10 times right in the face, just as hard as I could hit him,” Herbert told the station.
Runnels was transported to a hospital in Augusta where he never regained consciousness. Police said he died later that evening.
The Parrishes were both injured during the violent attack but are expected to be OK.
One neighbor said she wasn’t too surprised to hear that Herbert was able to hold his own against a man who was 21 years his junior.
Noting his service in Vietnam, Jessica Clark told WJBF, “When I heard they were able to fend off the suspect, I was so proud of them and I was like, ‘OK, so that guy picked the wrong house.'”
Police announced the couple will not face any charges related to the death and warned people in the area to not open their doors for strangers.
If Jackson is populated by other citizens like Herbert Parrish, though, perhaps police should also warn those with thoughts of victimizing their elderly neighbors about the dangers involved.
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