An 11-year-old boy who returned home from school Monday came face to face with a stranger robbing his house in New Jersey, and the heartstopping moment was captured on the family's security video.
The boy, whose parents asked that he only be identified by his first name, Allan, had just gotten off the school bus in the Pine Lakes neighborhood of Wayne and went inside his house to get a snack shortly after 3 p.m.. He saw a man peeking out from a closet, he said Tuesday.
"My heart immediately started pounding and I didn't know what to do except just run out," the sixth grader told reporters.
"The way he looked and the way he shuffled scared me," he said.
Surveillance video from a camera mounted on the living room fireplace shows a man walking through Allan's house. Less than two minutes later, Allan walks inside and pauses, like he knows something is wrong -- he doesn't even close the door behind him.
Moments later, he sprints out the front door after he spots the man lurking behind a closet door. Neighbor Gail Degraaf was just pulling into her driveway next door.
"He was running and I said, 'Allan, are you OK? Is everything OK?'" she recounted Tuesday. "And he said, 'No, there's a stranger in my house and I saw him and he saw me.'"
By the time Wayne police officers arrived on the scene, the suspect was gone. Police say he had broken in through a rear sliding-glass patio door and escaped the same way.
All the man stole was a cellphone, which police said he dropped in the woods. Police said Tuesday Allan did exactly the right thing by running away -- a lesson Allan said he learned from his D.A.R.E. officer in fifth grade.
"He fled, he didn't try to make contact with the person, he didn't try to confront him," said Wayne Police Det. Captain Lauren Martin. "He went right out to get help from a neighbor."
Less than 24 hours after NBC 4 first broadcast the surveillance images of the burglar, dozens of tips led to the arrest of 23-year-old Thomas Coughlin of Pompton Lakes. He was charged with burglary and theft and is being held on $50,000 bail, according to police. It's not clear if he has an attorney, but police said they believe he did not expect anyone to come home and pointed out that he did not try to hurt the boy and never spoke to him once he was discovered.
Allan said he had one message for the suspect: "I wish he would be a normal person and not decide to steal things."