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Emily Welker, Published March 27 2014

After back-to-back home invasions, police warn homeowners to lock doors

MOORHEAD – We’ve all heard someone teasing a man who owns a little dog, asking him what kind of protection he thinks the tiny fluffball will provide for his home and family.

But Wade Iverson, the owner of Oreo, a cross-bred Shih Tzu/bichon frise, has a fluffball with the heart of a lion.

“Thank goodness for our little puppy,” Iverson said after a home intruder broke into his family’s home near Minnesota State University Moorhead Tuesday night.

Iverson thinks the burglar, who came in through an unlocked door sometime before 4 a.m., may have been scared away by a bark from the 1½-year-old pooch.

The intruder left without harming anyone, but took some of the Iversons’ belongings, including his wife Sarah’s purse, as the family discovered in the morning.

“And then I realized he had gotten my daughter’s little wallet, too,” Iverson said.

It was the first of at least two such home invasions in the metro area in as many days.

Fargo police arrested a suspected burglar, Michael James Arntson, 35, early Thursday after dispatchers received a call about 1:40 a.m. from a homeowner in the 6200 block of 23rd Street South who allegedly confronted him in their home before Arntson fled.

Police set up a perimeter in the area when they saw a vehicle take off at high speed, said Fargo police Lt. Joel Vettel.

Officers stopped the car and arrested Arntson at gunpoint. He was driving a car and wearing a jacket he’s suspected of stealing from a home in the 6200 block of 24th Street South, Vettel said.

Moorhead police Lt. Tory Jacobson said home invasions are unsettling, and Tuesday night’s incident was reassuring only because no one was hurt.

“We’re very thankful and fortunate it ended with a property crime,” he said.

In both of the Fargo break-ins, overhead garage doors were open and doors from the garage to the house were unlocked. The garage door was up with the door open to the Iverson home, too.

“There’s often a correlation between the garage door and the open door into a home,” said Vettel, who stressed he was not blaming homeowners who are victims in these cases. “The common thread is convenience and opportunity.”

Vettel said it is too early in the investigation to say whether the burglaries are connected.

The combination of convenience and opportunity also marked a burglar who was targeting unlocked West Fargo homes from Feb. 10 to March 10, said West Fargo Assistant Police Chief Mike Reitan.

The burglar knocked on front doors and only entered those at which no one answered and which were unlocked, Reitan said. A man was arrested in connection with six suspected burglaries, he said.

Though home invasion burglaries are unusual, police said they have not seen a sudden spate of residential break-ins.

Arntson faces charges that include criminal trespass, burglary, theft of a motor vehicle and drunken driving.

“Certainly alcohol played a factor,” Vettel said.

For Iverson, it’s scary to think about what could have happened. His two children sleep on the main floor where the home’s entrance is. He and his wife sleep in the master bedroom a floor below.

“At one point, somebody I do not know was closer to my kids than I was,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541