Sam and Heather Julius were driving one May night last year when they spotted some land for sale near 188th and Blondo Streets.
They pulled over on a gravel road just off Blondo, popped the hatch on their Chevy Equinox and gazed at the land.
With their 8-pound puppy digging in the dirt, the couple daydreamed about the land — a horse stable here, maybe some paths there.
Sam Julius said he and his wife didn't even know there was a house on that land, around the bend.
Then a car came screaming off Blondo Street. Headlights bore down on them. The driver jumped out with a handgun drawn.
John B. Foss Jr. — a resident of the out-of-sight house, a house that had been burglarized weeks before — charged out of the driver's seat, immediately pointed a gun at Sam Julius and said: “I'm going to blow your (expletive) head off.”
Seconds later, he fired a shot into the ground as Sam Julius scrambled into the driver's seat to get away.
For that behavior — which amounted to a felony terroristic threats conviction — Foss, 33, received two years of probation from Douglas County District Judge Thomas Otepka.
Foss faced up to five years in prison.
Sam Julius said he had a hard time wrapping his head around the sentence — not to mention Foss' actions that night.
Foss' attorney, Joseph Howard, said his client acknowledges that he overreacted that night.
Howard said Foss was fueled by adrenaline and by the fact that his house had been burglarized and a shotgun had been stolen in the weeks before that night.
He noted that his client had little criminal record — and that a probation officer reviewing the case had recommended that Foss receive 18 months of probation.
Otepka upped that to two years — and ordered Foss to serve his probation after he finishes the year of probation he was given for having 30 venomous snakes in the house on Blondo Street.
“My client knows that he acted irrationally,” Howard said. “He was scared. His adrenaline was rushing. He had all kinds of emotions. Rather than calm himself down, he did something that he never intended.
“His intent was to just get them to leave. He thought that he would flank them and scare them and get them to leave.”
He succeeded, Sam Julius said.
“Other people have been through worse,” Julius said Tuesday. “But I can tell you my wife was devastated. And as tough as a guy wants to be, something like this stays with you. It's terrorizing.”
Sam Julius said he grew up on a ranch in South Dakota and knows well the pride of landowners and gun owners. He said he and his dad occasionally encountered would-be hunters or wayward drivers on their ranch.
They approached such visitors, identified themselves, asked them if they needed help, Sam Julius said.
Foss did none of that.
Julius said the situation was jarring. One minute, Sam, 35, and Heather, 29, were sitting in the back hatch and dreaming about buying the land.
It was dark, so the couple couldn't see Foss' house. They simply saw the for-sale sign. And they saw the potential for horses, maybe a stable.
Then they saw a car speeding. Then a gunman screaming at them. Heather Julius scrambled to put the puppy back in the car.
Sam Julius begged the guy to calm down, told him they were leaving. Julius said Foss' behavior became more erratic as he pointed the gun.
“He kept screaming, 'I'm going to blow your (expletive) head off' and 'get the (bleep) out of here,'” Julius said.
The warning shot was more like a parting shot. Sam Julius said he rushed his wife to the passenger door — then circled around to the driver's side. As he opened the driver's door, Foss fired. Sam Julius estimated that the bullet hit the ground about 5 feet from him.
“I had no idea whether he was going to shoot me,” Sam Julius said. “The next time he might hit somebody.
“I felt helpless while it was happening. Now, with this sentence, I feel helpless again. It's not me who loses. It's the next person he does this to.”
Howard said there won't be a next time. He said Foss will take advantage of probation and will make better decisions.
“He acted irrationally,” Howard said. “It's troubling for him, too. We're both very well aware of the impact that this has caused. He's determined to make sure it doesn't happen again.”
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