KNOXVILLE (WATE) – It’s a crime that Nick Hammond will never forget.
It was summer of 2006. The 22-year-old was 12 and was home alone for just a few hours, when he found himself in a terrifying situation.
Nick Hammond saw a strange pickup truck pull in to the driveway. A man got out holding a screwdriver. He immediately called his dad, Lt. James Hammond, who happens to be a lieutenant with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.
“I told him, I said answer the door. Don’t open it. Just say ‘hey dad, somebody’s at the front door,’” Lt. James Hammond remembers.
However, the man with the screwdriver didn’t go to the front door. Nick Hammond said he heard the back door get kicked in. He yelled to his dad “They’re breaking in!”
Staying on the cordless phone with his dad, Nick Hammond remembers running upstairs to his bedroom, locking the door and scrambling into his closet, where there’s a crawl space you can’t readily see.
One of the burglars was hot on his heels. “Not even 10 seconds I’m in there, I hear my bedroom door get kicked in and I’m like, ‘dad, they’re in my room,’” said Nick Hammond.
Trying to move around, Nick Hammond said he think he hung up the phone accidentally. Lt. James Hammond was already on his way with other deputies, fearing for his son’s life.
When Nick Hammond’s mother, Tracey Hammond, found out what was going on, she was speeding home too. “We never expected this to happen, ” she remembers with a shudder. “No one expects it, but you need to be prepared.”
For several terrifying moments, Nick Hammond actually saw one of the burglars, inches from where he was hiding.
“All I can remember is, there’s a crack at the top of the door inside the closet where I was hiding and I could just see him standing there, and he was breathing real heavily and while he’s still standing there,” said Nick Hammond. “I hear somebody downstairs, stuff getting broken, stuff like that.”
As Nick Hammond stays hidden, his dad kept calling, finally leaving a message on the answering machine. Nick heard it echoing through the house, which means the burglars heard it, too.
“The answering machine picks up and then at that point, I can hear my dad saying, ‘you know, I’m on my way. I’ll be there in just a minute. Stay where you’re at, don’t come out,’” Nick Hammond explains.
Lt. James Hammond says, “you could hear somebody pick up the phone. Well, it wasn’t Nick. It was the subjects that had broken into the house.”
The burglars took off and Nick Hammond acted quickly. “When I hear the truck start up, I exited the closet and I looked out the window. They were turning around and that’s how I got the license plate number,” he said.
Deputies, including Nick Hammond’s dad, arrived mere seconds after the suspects took off. Because Nick got the license plate number, deputies were able to quickly track down the suspects and solve 17 other burglaries in the area.
His Dad arrived mere seconds after the suspects took off. deputies were able to quickly track down the suspects and solve 17 other burglaries in the area.
“I couldn’t hold him tight enough once I did get to him,” his Tracey Hammond remembers.
Nick testified in court , facing down the two men: Homer Donald Martin, and Bobby Dwayne Wallen. Both have extensive criminal records, from robbery to domestic assault involving a juvenile to DUI.
“That’s when it really hit,” said Nick Hammond, remembering being in court. “They’re sitting there, staring at you, giving you dirty looks, while you’re up there telling on them basically.”
Knox County Detective Jim Wright gives Nick an “A+” for how he handled that scary situation, especially at such a young age. There’s just one thing he says could have prevented it.
“If he had gone to the door, and stayed behind the door, locked, kept it closed, and said ‘can I help you” or “dad, there’s somebody at the door,’ more than likely, those guys would’ve took off,” said Detective Wright.
Remember? That’s what Nick’s dad advised his son to do that day. But he says Nick did the right thing by quickly finding a good place to hide.
Nick Hammond says he hopes this doesn’t happen to anyone else, but if someone breaks into your home,here’s his advice: “Don’t panic, keep your head straight, find somewhere were you don’t think they will find out.”