An 11-year-old boy, who was home alone when three people broke into his family's North Carolina residence, turned the tables on the alleged criminals when he grabbed a machete and whacked one of them in the head, officials said.
Braydon Smith said he knew he didn't have time to think or be afraid.
"I grabbed my machete off my wall and went to hit him," he said in an exclusive interview with ABC station WTVD in Durham, North Carolina. "I knew I had to act in the heat of the moment."
But now the boy's family is demanding answers from the Orange County Sheriff's Office about how the alleged home invader slipped out of their grasp when he walked away from a hospital after being treated for injuries caused in the confrontation with Braydon, whom authorities described as a local youth baseball star and a "very tough kid."
"It was infuriating," Braydon's mother, Kaitlin Johnson, told WTVD. "This guy could have killed my child."
The suspect, Jataveon Dashawn Hall, 19, was arrested just after 1 p.m. on Sunday in Burlington, North Carolina, more than 40 hours after he was spotted on surveillance video walking out of the University of North Carolina Medical Center in Chapel Hill with his head heavily bandaged and wearing a hospital gown, authorities said.
The terrifying ordeal occurred Friday around 11 a.m. local time, when Braydon was alone in his home in Mebane, North Carolina, about 20 miles northwest of Chapel Hill.
Johnson, who lives in another state, was on the phone with her son when someone knocked on the front door of the Mebane house. Johnson told WTVD that she heard one of the intruders say the house was empty.
Sheriff's officials said that when the alleged robbers entered the house they discovered Braydon alone. Hall allegedly picked up a pellet gun he found in the house, took Braydon's phone and forced the boy into a bedroom closet before he and his accomplices allegedly proceeded to ransack the residence, according to a statement released by the sheriff's office.
"The juvenile, who is a star baseball player on several area teams, left the closet and was able to gain access to a machete. He entered the living room behind the intruder, swung the machete, and struck the man in the back of the head," the statement reads.
Braydon told WTVD he knew the pellet gun Hall took wasn't loaded, and so he did what his father had taught him to do if an intruder ever broke into their home: "If they come in the door, you let them have it."
Hall responded by kicking the boy in the stomach and knocking him against a couch, authorities said. But Braydon quickly scrambled to his feet and charged after Hall again, swinging the machete but missing.
"The intruder then kicked the child in the side of the head and turned to grab several items, including a television and a PlayStation. At this point, the intruder realized he was bleeding significantly from the machete strike. He dropped the electronics, exited the residence and all three suspects fled the home," according to the sheriff's office.
Braydon's mother said she managed to hear about 12 minutes of the confrontation on her phone, then called a relative in North Carolina, who in turn called 911.
"It was horrifying. There's no other way to put it," she told WTVD. "I didn't know that he [Braydon] would be OK."
Sheriff's deputies raced to the home and found Braydon safe. They quickly put out an all-points bulletin and alerted local hospitals to be on the lookout for the wounded suspect.
“Not only did this youngster thwart the larceny attempt, he created blood evidence that very well may lead to a conviction in this case,” Sheriff Charles Blackwood told reporters on Friday before Hall escaped. "This is a very tough kid who kept his wits about him. At the same time, I want to reflect that this youngster, his family, and indeed this community, are very lucky this event did not have a tragic ending for the child.”
In the interview with WTVD, Braydon shared a message to the alleged burglars: "You shouldn’t have done what you’ve done, and you’re better off to get a job than breaking into other people's house."
Hall showed up at the UNC Hospital in Hillsborough about 1 p.m. on Friday. Hospital staff treated him for a gash on the back of his head and alerted the sheriff's office, hospital spokesman Phil Bridges said in a statement.
When Hall's condition worsened, he was transferred to the UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill for further treatment.
"This patient was admitted to the ED [Emergency Department], but was in the legal custody of the Orange County Sheriff's Department which did not place an officer with him," Bridges said. "In similar situations, hospital staff will often alert law enforcement personnel when a suspect patient is discharged, but they remain the legal responsibility of law enforcement.
"It is the responsibility of law enforcement to closely monitor the status of suspects in their custody while those patients are receiving medical treatment," Bridges added. "UNC Hospitals personnel are working with the Sheriff's Department to offer them assistance in this matter."
The sheriff's office said in a statement on Sunday prior to Hall's arrest that it notified the hospital police to alert them prior to discharging Hall. Deputies planned to "pick Hall up and take him before a magistrate where warrants would be served," according to the sheriff's department statement.
But Hall allegedly walked out of the hospital at 8:23 p.m., and vanished.
Sheriff Blackwood said in a statement on Sunday that his agency wasn't notified that Hall left the hospital until 6:26 a.m. on Saturday. He said a nurse wrote on Hall's medical chart that he left the hospital against medical advice, but apparently never told hospital police.
Blackwood said Hall, according to a hospital police officer, told the nurse he "needed to leave because the police were going to be looking for him."
"I am concerned about the amount of misinformation I am reading regarding this case," Blackwell said in his statement. "First of all, Jataveon Hall was never in the custody of our office."
He said that when his agency was initially alerted that Hall was at the Hillsborough hospital, no warrant had been issued for him at that time.
"Hall was only a suspect and there was no legal authority to hold him in custody," Blackwell said.
Later Friday, a magistrate issued multiple warrants stemming from the break-in, charging Hall with breaking and entering, second-degree kidnapping, interfering with emergency communications, and assault on a child younger than 12.
The other two suspects have not been arrested, and investigators are trying to identify them.
Braydon's aunt, Ashley Matthews, told WTVD that no one seems to be taking responsibility for Hall's escape.
"Who is responsible for allowing this criminal to walk out of UNC Hospital?" Matthews said. "We want to know who it is, and we want somebody to take responsibility."
Chief Deputy Jamison Sykes defended his agency, echoing Sheriff Blackwood's statement that the agency was never told Hall left the hospital until hours after he departed.
“Our agency is very concerned about the events in this case. Effective immediately, we will institute policy changes necessary to protect the public in situations like this," Sykes said in a statement. "We expected to be notified prior to Hall’s discharge. When Hall left the hospital Friday evening against medical advice, we certainly should have been notified. But most concerning of all is that hospital police did not even know Hall had left the premises almost ten hours prior. Indeed, Hall's absence was only discovered when we placed a phone call to them."