By Brian Fraga
Standard-Times staff writer
September 24, 2008 6:00 AM
NEW BEDFORD - Kevin Coelho was driving on Belleville Avenue Tuesday morning when a woman ran into the street, crying and yelling that somebody was trying to kill her boyfriend.
"She was hysterical. She was saying, 'Help me, help me,'" said Officer Coelho, a Bristol County correctional officer who was off-duty.
He left his vehicle and was directed to a single-family home at 878 Belleville Ave., where he saw two men scuffling in the front doorway.
One of them was armed with a gun.
After determining who the criminal suspect was, Officer Coelho kicked him in the leg and helped the male homeowner wrestle the gun away.
The corrections officer then dragged the suspect outside the house and hip-tossed him to the ground, where he held him down with a knee to the back until police arrived.
Stephen Makin, 50, of 126 South Main St., Acushnet, was arrested and charged with armed home invasion and attempted murder with a firearm. He was arraigned Tuesday and is being detained until a dangerousness hearing Sept. 30.
Witnesses, including a female homeowner whose name is being withheld by The Standard-Times, said Mr. Makin was armed with a handgun when he entered the house around 11:30 a.m. and fired one round during the ensuing struggle.
Nobody was injured in the shooting. It was not clear Tuesday why Mr. Makin allegedly targeted the small home in a relatively quiet section of Belleville Avenue. Police officials were unavailable for comment.
Mr. Makin has a lengthy criminal record that includes numerous prior arrests for cocaine possession and distribution, according to court records.
Neighbors said they had previously seen the suspect in the neighborhood but did not know him. Several residents said they had never witnessed such a violent episode in the area.
"I've been here 31 years and we've never had a problem like this," neighbor Jill Martin said.
The female homeowner said she and her fiance do not know the suspect.
"I'd never seen him before," she said. "He just walked into my house."
The woman said she and her fiance were in the living room when they heard a knock at the front door. When her boyfriend answered the door, the woman said she heard Mr. Makin tell him, "Give me your money and get your wife."
She then heard a glass object shatter, followed by a single gunshot inside the house. The bullet struck a stairway. The woman said she ran out through the back door and onto the street, where she yelled for help.
"I didn't know what to do," she said.
Nick Santerre, the next-door neighbor, said he heard a "small pop" and a woman "screaming bloody murder."
Charlene Letourneau was driving past the house when she saw an emotionally distraught woman run into the street.
"She fell to the ground in hysterics and said 'My boyfriend's been shot,'" said Ms. Letourneau, who jumped out of her car and called 911.
Meanwhile, the woman's fiance continued to struggle with the suspect in the front doorway. The homeowner had a bloody mouth and had cut his right hand when he reached for the suspect's weapon. The gun's hammer caught on the webbing of his hand, witnesses said.
At that point, Officer Coelho was driving from a banking errand when he saw the commotion and intervened. Several witnesses said they were surprised to see an individual who appeared and easily manhandled the suspect.
"The guy seemed to know what he was doing. He just took him down without a problem," Mr. Santerre said.
Interviewed hours later, Officer Coelho said the suspect appeared to have alcohol on his breath, but said he could not tell whether he was intoxicated.
While Officer Coelho had the suspect pinned, police arrived and arrested Mr. Makin, who was booked and arraigned at New Bedford District Court. He is being held at the Ash Street Jail, the same facility where Officer Coelho works.
Police also transported the male homeowner, whose right hand was bandaged, to headquarters to receive his statement.
Detectives later examined the house for evidence and seized a black, hooded sweatshirt the suspect reportedly left behind on the front lawn.
Just before 1:30 p.m., police told the female homeowner, who was being comforted by relatives, that she could go back inside her house. She said she was OK but was clearly rattled.
"Very much so," she said. "Nothing ever happened here before. Now I'm going to have to lock my doors."