South Austin neighborhood visited by Grinch on Christmas

A South Austin neighborhood had a visit from a Grinch on Christmas Day. Police say they arrested a man wearing a Santa hat who was trying to steal out of open garages.

The suspect told police he was searching garages for clothes, beer and change. But, he did make it into one home before being stopped by an armed homeowner. It's not what you would expect to happen on Christmas.

"He ran back through my hall and straight through here. So I confronted him all the way to my truck," says James Brent, homeowner.

Austin Police responded to an attempted burglary at a home off Colonial Park Blvd around 7:30 Christmas morning. Homeowner James Brent was awake at the time and says he heard a door shutting, then saw a shadow passing by his bedroom.

"Complete shock. Questioning if someone was supposed to be here? No, but it was Christmas. So you know someone could be coming over to surprise somebody. I wanted to find out immediately who that was; it was important. That may have tempered some of my reaction a little bit but it didn't change the fact that I was going to grab a weapon," says Brent.

Brent says he grabbed his gun to protect himself and approached the man, who was wearing a Santa hat, asking what he was doing in his home.

"He said he was sorry for coming in; he didn't mean to come in and that he was just looking for clothes. The whole time he was just backing his way out and making his retreat out the door," says Brent. 

That's when police were called. They searched the area, spotting the man by his white Santa hat. He was later identified as 39-year-old Dennis Rainford. He confessed to going into garages that were left open to search for clothes, beer and change. Brent says his quick-thinking was all thanks to his concealed-handgun license training.

"Having already thought about that well ahead of time and sort of made some of those decisions, you don't have to think in the moment. Which, I will tell you, there was no time to think," says Brent.

Rainford has been charged with burglary of a residence, which is a second degree felony. He remains in the Travis County Jail. 

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