Owen Burns assumed his little sister was having fun with her friends in the backyard when he heard her screaming, which irritated him. When the 13-year-old looked out his bedroom window a few moments later, he saw a stranger with his hand over his 8-year-old sister’s mouth, attempting to drag her into the nearby woods.
Owen sat on his bed, grabbing his slingshot and whatever improvised ammunition he could find: a marble and a rock, as it turned out. He loaded the marble first, then drew back the yellow, plastic tubing of the slingshot, aimed out his open window at the stranger 200 feet away, and let go.
The bullet struck him between the eyes. Owen then reloaded the rock and fired again, this time to the chest.
“He was swearing. “He was swearing,” Owen explained to The Washington Post.
It was the beginning of a strange encounter on May 10 outside Owen’s house in Alpena Township, Mich., where attempted kidnappings “don’t really happen,” according to the children’s mother, Maggie Burns. Owen’s sister would be safe, if traumatized, by the end of the day, Owen would be hailed as a hero with impressive aim, and a 17-year-old local would be behind bars, accused of attempting to abduct an 8-year-old from her backyard.
In a news release, Michigan State Police did not identify the 17-year-old, but said he is being charged as an adult. Owen was praised by law enforcement for averting a potentially disastrous situation.
“He really is the one that… I believe saved his sister’s either life or from something seriously bad happening to her,” Lt. John Grimshaw said at a news conference, calling Owen’s actions “extraordinary.”
“He should be commended for it,” he continued.
Owen’s slingshot isn’t anything special. He told The Washington Post that his mother bought it for him on clearance for $3 a few years ago. He’s gone out in the backyard on occasion since then to do some target practice with old orange juice cans.
On the afternoon of May 10, he wasn’t using it, at least not at first. Instead, after getting home from school, he settled into “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” on his PlayStation 3. His sister was mushroom hunting in the backyard, which backs up to some woods. They had arrived home before their parents, which was unusual.
That’s when the 17-year-old emerged from the woods and tried to grab Owen’s 8-year-old sister, who screamed and struggled, according to a news release from state police. When Owen first saw what was going on, he had a thought: If this stranger kidnapped his sister, he might turn her into a sex slave or kill her.
According to Grimshaw, the suspect “came from behind her, grabbed her like you see in the movies — hand over mouth, arm around the waist — and was attempting to pull her into the woods.”
Owen reached for his slingshot and hit him twice. After she had been freed, his sister came inside, crying, and told her brother that she had almost been killed. Owen stormed out of the house, yelling and cursing as the man began to flee. Owen grabbed a baseball and hurled it at the stranger, missing just over his shoulder. Owen then returned to his slingshot, stretching the sling back in preparation for a third shot. The plastic band, however, snapped, causing Owen to smack himself in the face with his hand.
The stranger got away — but not with his sister.
The siblings called their mother, who had stopped to help a family member on the way home from work. Her children were hysterical and incoherent, but she could make out the word “kidnapped.” Racing home, she called the police.
“I was in a state of shock for a few days,” Maggie admitted.
The 17-year-old suspect was discovered hiding at a nearby gas station, according to troopers. In Alpena County District Court, he was charged with attempted kidnapping, attempted felony assault, and misdemeanor assault and battery.
“He had obvious signs of an injury consistent with those that would have been sustained from the slingshot strikes to his head and chest,” police said in a statement.
Maggie said she couldn’t believe her son had sniped a stranger from 200 feet away at first. He was speaking loudly, she thought. The police then informed her of the 17-year-old’s obvious injuries. They claimed that as investigators questioned the suspect, the marble-induced goose egg on his head grew larger.
“You said I always lie!” Owen informed his mother.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” she said. “It didn’t seem real until there was proof.” It sounds like something out of a Hollywood film.”
“Stuff in movies can and does happen in real life,” Owen explained.