Locksmith Shot While Changing Locks On Foreclosed Home

PHOENIX--For the second time in the last couple of weeks, the Phoenix real estate crisis has turned violent. A locksmith contracted to change locks on vacant foreclosed homes was shot before daybreak this morning by a person living in a foreclosed home.

Jeffrey Harrison, the 39 year old living in the home, woke this morning to the sound of a drill. He had not heard the locksmith knocking on the door just moments before. He observed someone drilling a hole into his front door and grabbed his gun -- he thought someone was breaking into his home.

When the locksmith pushed the door open, Harrison released a volley of gunfire.

The locksmith, whose name has not been released yet, was hit by a single bullet in the hand and was treated at a nearby hospital. The shooting occurred around 4:30 AM this morning (before daybreak) on the West side of Phoenix near 40th Street and Bell.

The shooter told police that he had not received an eviction notice and had no idea that the home was in foreclosure. The locksmith had knocked on the door, but with the homeowner asleep, received no answer. He thought the home was vacant until the renter began shooting.

Like many renters in the Phoenix metropolitan area, Harrison says he has been paying his rent on time, and the landlord did not inform him that the home was in foreclosure.

Despite the circumstances of the shooting, Harrison was taken into custody, released, and later charged with aggravated assault.

Foreclosure notices are sent to homeowners, and renters are often caught unaware. A bill (H.B. 2269) is pending in the Arizona legislature to protect renters who have been paying their rent on time from being evicted without notice when landlords are foreclosed upon.

The foreclosure crisis has hit Arizona especially hard. The state has been ranked by Forbes magazine as third in the nation for number of foreclosures. Arizona State University released a report today showing the median home price has dropped from $230,000 to $133,000 over the last 12 months. Maricopa County (Phoenix metro) also has one of the highest residential vacancy rates in the nation.

This is the second time in two weeks that the foreclosure crisis has turned violent in the Phoenix metropolitan area. A man in Youngtown, a suburb on the outskirts of the city, shot himself in the head two weeks ago when SWAT battered down his door to evict him.