City Police: A second burglar arrested in College Hill thefts

City police arrested a second man Monday for taking part in a conspiracy to burglarize student housing in the city, sometimes while the residents were inside asleep, according to the department.

Jonah L. Lightaul, 21, of 1172 Starr Road, Cortlandville was charged with three counts each of second-degree burglary and fourth-degree conspiracy, felonies. Lightaul was also charged with one count of felony, first-degree providing a false sworn statement as well as three counts of petit larceny, a misdemeanor.

Lightaul, and 19-year-old city resident Austin C. Falso, were part of a conspiracy to burglarize city homes whether or not the residents were there and sell the goods for money, said Lt. Michael Strangeway in a phone interview this morning. The police arrested Falso on felony burglary and conspiracy charges Thursday.

The arrests are part of an ongoing, weeks-long investigation into burglaries of student housing, Strangeway said. Lightaul was charged with three burglaries: two at Lincoln Avenue residences and one at a Woodruff Street home. Falso is accused of burglarizing a Woodruff Street residence.

Officers are investigating a total of eight burglaries and one larceny from a vehicle in the area, Strangeway said. The conspirators entered the student housing through unlocked doors, whether or not anyone was home, or reached through unlocked windows to steal whatever they could easily grab, he noted.

“They’re not breaking into houses, they’re walking in,” Strangeway said.

It is very unusual and brazen for burglars to disregard whether a resident is in the home or not, but the conspirators do not appear concerned by students’ presence, he continued. That is dangerous and frightening for the residents, Strangeway noted. It’s also dangerous for the burglars, he added.

A resident might justifiably attack the burglars, Strangeway pointed out. In New York State victims have no duty to try to retreat from an attack in their own homes and may defend themselves if they are in fear of their lives or the life of someone else with a justifiable level of force, he explained. Waking up in the middle of the night to an unknown, grown man inside a home could certainly prompt a resident to defend themselves, Strangeway added.

“I don’t think it would be a big stretch for someone to say I was in fear for my life,” he said. “I don’t know these men fully understand the peril these men put themselves in.”

Since the burglars are targeting homes with unlocked doors and windows, simply locking up doors and windows in homes and vehicles will likely prevent the conspirators from entering, Strangeway noted. “Any of those steps will deter most thefts that we have.”

Lightaul was arraigned in City Court and released by the Court to reappear at 1 p.m. Wednesday.