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Unlikely friendship: Harrisburg councilman and intruder who tried to break into his nonprofit office

“I never thought in my wildest dreams I would stop a criminal, catch the criminal, but also revitalize and show there is a better way,” the councilman said.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Early Saturday morning, Harrisburg City Councilman Ralph Rodriguez got a notification from his doorbell camera. The video captured someone in a mask and plastic gloves trying to break into the offices of All You Can, Inc. a nonprofit Rodriguez runs in Harrisburg’s Allison Hill neighborhood.

Rodriguez and his wife rushed to the scene. He then came face-to-face with the intruder. After Rodriguez pointed his gun—for which he has a permit—the intruder ran away.

The story could have ended there.

But on Sunday, Rodriguez got a message from a Facebook account that had just been created. 

The writer said he was the person who had tried to break into the building with the intention of stealing something to pawn. He said he was writing to apologize directly to Rodriguez after learning that the building was the office of All You Can, Inc.

All You Can, Inc. offers resources to at-risk youth in Harrisburg through programming and mentorship. Programs include the Youth Academy and help filing for emergency rental assistance.

Rodriguez at first doubted the veracity of the person writing on Facebook. After the writer confirmed several details only the intruder would know, Rodriguez and several Harrisburg police officers met with the man.

What Rodriguez learned changed his perspective on the incident. He learned the intruder was a 22-year-old Harrisburg man on hard times while taking care of his 77-year-old dad. He had graduated high school and had no criminal record.

“Listening to his story, hearing more, learning more, I met his dad, went to his home. It was more than what I thought initially. It’s actually what every 18-to-25-year-old is facing that is dealt the hard hand of poverty in our area,” Rodriguez said.

Breaking into a building with the intent to steal could bring a number of charges, including burglary. 

But according to Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo, officials must balance the interests of public safety with the factors of the case. Chardo said he was impressed that the intruder reached out to the victim. The victim’s desire to press charges or not is also a consideration.

Rodriguez told authorities he does not want to press any charges. Instead, he decided to give the young man a leg up. He helped him renew his government ID and apply to a plumbing and HVAC certification program.

Rodriguez said he’s glad to make something positive out of a bad situation. He admitted—the pair make unlikely friends.

“I never thought in my wildest dreams I would stop a criminal, catch the criminal, but also revitalize and show there is a better way,” he said.

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