Burglars used gun, charges say

Prosecutors charged two men in a Coupeville home invasion robbery attempt that was thwarted by the gutsy victims last month, according to court documents.

Keith Wheeler, a 21-year-old Coupeville resident, and Nicholas O’Neill, a 23-year-old Oak Harbor resident, were both charged in Island County Superior Court with burglary in the first degree and second-degree assault. The burglary charge has a deadly weapon enhancement that would add a mandatory five years to a sentence.

Both men pleaded not guilty March 3.

Detective Daniel Todd with the Island County Sheriff’s Office wrote that the burglary occurred Feb. 18 at a guest house on Pheasant Run Road. The male victim reported that he and his girlfriend were surprised by two men in black face masks entering his home. The man said one of the intruders, later identified as Stewart, pointed a gun at them while the other, suspected to be O’Neill, was armed with a baseball bat, the report states.

Todd wrote that the male victim became alarmed when one of the men started pulling duct tape off a roll. He grabbed for the pistol and the woman ran to the main residence to get help.

As the victim and Stewart struggled over the gun, O’Neill struck him in the head with a baseball bat, Todd wrote. Then O’Neill fled from the residence as the two men continued to fight over the gun. Finally, people from the main residence arrived, got control of the gun and restrained Stewart.

The group of people brought Stewart out onto a porch, where he tried to jump off the deck to get away. One of the men grabbed Stewart from behind and they both fell forward, breaking the man’s hand. The people then pulled off Wheeler’s mask and used his belt to tie him to a tree, the report states.

Deputies responded to a 911 call and arrested Stewart, O’Neill and a third man who was in a car with O’Neill.

Todd wrote that the alleged victim admitted to growing marijuana in his home, which he guessed was what the intruders were after. The man tried to dispose of the pot plants by throwing them into the woods before law enforcement arrived, court documents show.

According to the report, both men denied committing the burglary or being together that night. Wheeler said he was just hanging out at the home when he was jumped. O’Neill said he and the other man were driving to the residence to buy pot when they were stopped by police, Todd wrote.

O’Neill’s attorney, Bill Hawkins of Oak Harbor, said details of the incident are still coming in.

“We’ll see what happens after the dust settles,” he said.