Waseca man praised by police for not lawfully blowing burglar's head off

The knife-wielding Kotek (left) is lucky to be alive after getting busted burglarizing by a shotgun-toting homeowner.
The knife-wielding Kotek (left) is lucky to be alive after getting busted burglarizing by a shotgun-toting homeowner.

When Gerald and Sarah Hinna arrived home around 9:30 Saturday night, they sensed something was amiss. Their dogs were barking, and upon entering their house, Gerald noticed their barks seemed particularly focused on an upstairs door that was partially closed.

SEE ALSO: Footprints in snow guide Faribault police from burglary scene right to suspects

Gerald tried to push the door open, but his efforts were blocked by a human body on the other side. His wife handed him his shotgun just as the person behind the door pulled it open. The intruder had a knife in one hand.

But Gerald didn't shoot. Instead, as the would-be burglar tried to run out of his house (Gerald says he wasn't sure whether the intruder was a man or woman at the time, though she was later identified as 42-year-old Judie Kotek), he nailed her in the head and stomach with the shotgun butt. Kotek kept running, but the Hinnas yelled to their off-duty cop neighbor, and he chased her down and detained her until police arrived.

In the wake of two teenage burglars in Little Falls getting brutally shot to death on Thanksgiving and a Rochester grandfather mistaking his granddaughter for a burglar and shooting her on Monday night, Gerald Hinna's decision not to fire his shotgun is being praised by the Waseca police.

From the Mankato Free Press:

"He exercised tremendous restraint," Waseca Police Capt. Kris Markeson said of Gerald Hinna's decision to refrain from using what would appear to be legal, deadly force against the knife-wielding female intruder.

"I'm glad he didn't," said Hinna's wife, Sarah. "Nobody got hurt, except for her, and that doesn't bother me a bit."

Sarah told the Free Press she and Kotek were coworkers at a Birdseye Foods in Waseca, but they didn't know each other well, and Kotek was recently fired. It's unclear why she tried to burglarize the Hinna's home, which she entered by prying open a window.

Kotek had jewelry and antique coins on her when she was arrested. She's been charged with five felonies, but at least her life will go on.

-- Correction -- An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Sarah Hinna and Judie Kotek worked together at a grocery story. A reader points out that Birdseye Foods is actually a frozen vegetable plant.

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