O'FALLON, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- An O'Fallon homeowner wants a police officer who was investigating thefts from unlocked cars to be charged with breaking and entering.
O’Fallon Police officials say the officer did nothing wrong and “breaking and entering” isn’t technically a real offense.
James Lewis says he was getting ready for work on a snowy January morning when his Ring doorbell camera alerted him to someone on his property.
"At first I didn't know who it was. I was getting ready to come out and confront him. Then I saw the patch and knew it was a police officer," said Lewis.
Lewis's recording shows the officer walk across the grass to Lewis's car in his driveway, open the driver door, and look inside. The video glitches and in the next frame, the officer is gone.
Lewis says the officer did knock on his house door after checking his car, but Lewis says he didn't have time to answer that day.
Now, the assistant police chief, Major John Neske, is explaining the officer’s actions and defending his work.
“We were called that morning for break-ins inside vehicles,” said Neske. “The thieves were checking handles on the doors. If it was open, they were rummaging through and stealing items and if it was locked, they went on to the next car. So they (officers) were walking, following print foots, checking the doors. If they opened, they took a quick peek in, shut the door. Or if it looked rummaged through, they tried to contact the home owner then to identify additional vehicles," Neske said.
Lewis says he wants the officer charged with a crime.
"I would like to see a charge because that's technically breaking and entering. He went into my vehicle without a search warrant, without authorization. There is no evidence of a crime in my vehicle. I'm not wanted for nothing," said Lewis.
Neske explained “breaking and entering” isn’t an offense. The closest thing would be burglary or trespassing, but in both cases, you would have to prove criminal intent.
“The officer did not commit a crime. There was no intent. The only intent of the officers that morning was to help the citizens of O’Fallon and catch somebody that was victimizing our citizens,” said Neske. “They decided to walk that neighborhood in zero degree temperatures to try to find additional victims. I applaud them.”
Neighbors shared mixed reactions.
“I think it crosses a line. We all have our own rights and personal property and I would like for him to ask before going into my vehicle or into my home or anything,” said Ricky Schulte.
“I’m happy the officers are checking. They’re looking out for us, figuring out whose cars were broken into and first and foremost, I want to thank that officer,” said Brandon Franck, who was one of the victims of the thefts that night.
Lewis says he hired an attorney and still wants to pursue charges.