In the wee hours of New Year’s Day, a resident of St. Paul’s East Midway neighborhood heard the sound of breaking glass. A quick glance out the window revealed a pair of flashlight beams roving around a neighbors’ otherwise darkened home.
St. Paul Police arrived on the scene just in time to see two men trying to escape out the front door. According to charges filed in Ramsey County District Court, one of them was Richard Joseph Wollenberg, a 34-year-old man from St. Paul with four felonies on his record.
The other was Daniel Gregory Franco, a 31-year-old from Stillwater with a few felonies of his own—which meant he technically wasn’t supposed to have the green backpack packed with a handgun and ammunition he allegedly dropped while fleeing the scene.
The escape was short-lived, according to court documents. A canine officer took Franco down, and he had to be taken to the hospital to tend to his injuries.
En route, he told police this had all been a misunderstanding. He said the house belonged to his uncle, who had recently struck it rich and wanted Franco to keep an eye on the place for him. Franco said he’d just been watching TV on the couch when the cops showed up, and he’d only run because he’d been freaked out.
But court documents say Franco’s uncle told a different story once he got home. He told police he never asked his nephew (or Wollenberg, for that matter) to watch his house. Furthermore, he discovered he was missing two rifles from an upstairs bedroom, and a handgun from his dresser drawer. He was also having trouble finding two sets of his keys.
Officers found the bag of rifles discarded in the kitchen. The handgun, it turned out, was the one in Franco’s backpack. Charges also say the two sets of keys were found on Wollenberg, who told officers he was only there because Franco, a heroin buddy of his, had invited him.
To make matters worse for Franco, officers told him they had body camera footage of the incident. That’s when, according to court documents, Franco went for broke and offered the officers some heroin in exchange for not taking him to jail.
Reports recall about how well that worked out for him. Both he and Wollenberg were charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and second-degree burglary. They’re supposed to appear in court this week.
Here’s the kicker: Franco’s uncle told police he didn’t understand why his nephew would try to rob him. He said he’d already written him a check for $3,000, and he’d planned to give him another $25,000.