Tulsa Police: Deadly Home Invasion Was A Case Of Mistaken Identity

Monday, December 20th 2010, 5:15 pm
By: News On 6

Lori Fullbright, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Police arrested two teens accused of murdering a father just five hours after the man celebrated his son's first birthday.

Two men broke into the victim's home to rob them, held the family at gunpoint, and then Jerry Van Ellen followed them outside. That's when they shot him in the chest and killed him.

This is even worse than simply a random act of violence. This was a case of mistaken identity.

Police say the two men planned to break into a drug dealer's house, but they got the wrong address and ended up inside the home of an innocent family instead.

Jerry VanEllen served in the Army National Guard's Aviation Unit. He'd signed up when he was only 17-years-old and used his great technical abilities to serve his country.

"He's one of, what I call, those few old school guys that did it for God and country," said Jerry's friend Donald Bell.

Donald's known Jerry for 20 years. They served together and Donald says Jerry has never been happier since he met his wife five years ago. The two got married and have two small children, a one year old son and a baby girl.

"He was all about his family. He loved them more than anything," Donald said.

They say Jerry was a fun loving guy who could fix or figure out any gadget put in front of him.

He woke up Saturday morning around 3 a.m. after two men broke into his house. One man had a knife, the other had a gun. They robbed his family and as they left, he followed them outside and was shot and killed in his own front yard.

"They train those guys to chase after bad guys and God bless him, that's what he did," said Tulsa Police Sgt. Mike Huff.

Police arrested 17-year-old Tyler Hamlett. They say he confessed to being one of the robbers. Detectives arrested Michael Taylor Monday. They believe he's the one who pulled the trigger.

12/20/2010 Related Story: Arrest Made In Deadly Tulsa Home Invasion; Police Looking For Second Suspect

Officers say the men planned the robbery like it was some kind of mission, like they were playing some videogame.

"This crap with videogames and teenagers running around with gun and thinking life is a game. They're gonna wake up in prison someday," Sgt. Huff said.

Police say young criminals have a misplaced sense of honor, courage and duty. For the true meaning of those words, you have to look no further than the man who was ripped from his wife, children, family and friends. A man who didn't believe they were simply words, but a way of life.

Police say the suspects were vicious for no reason, even slitting the throat of the family dog. If you see Taylor, call 911.

Jerry's family is now planning his funeral, which will be just a few days before Christmas.