As Lewis “Lee” Wilson climbed the spiral staircase of the distinctive “Spaceship” home he shares with famed architect Bart Prince early Monday evening, he realized someone had broken in and their living quarters were trashed.
What Wilson didn’t realize was the burglars were still on the premises, Prince told the Journal on Tuesday.
“Somehow he (Wilson) ended up face-to-face with the guy outside the sliding glass door” of the second-story balcony, Prince said. “Lee told me he got it closed and locked. Then the guy just turned and shot him right through the glass.”
Wilson, 63, was taken to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where Prince said he has undergone surgery and remains in critical condition. He is expected to live, Prince said.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Albuquerque Police Department released a video taken by a neighbor showing two men who they believe are the suspects running away from the house.
“Detectives are searching for two offenders who appear to be either white or Hispanic, possibly in their teens or early 20s,” said officer Tanner Tixier, an APD spokesman.
Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward, Tixier said.
He said police don’t know yet if the burglars targeted the house on the 3500 block of Monte Vista because of its unusual design or if they just grabbed the opportunity to break in when they saw the two men leave.
Prince is a world-renowned architect who creates distinctive and unique homes, with the residence on Monte Vista being one of his most famous. It has various nicknames such as the “Spaceship” house and the “Bug” house.
Prince said he and Wilson had gone out to dinner up the street at Mannies Family Restaurant and returned home around 6 p.m. Prince went next door to a home he also owns and let out their two dachshunds, Shots and Silver, while Wilson went to the second story of their main home.
The next thing Prince heard was the blast of gunfire and breaking glass.
He ran into the home, headed upstairs and found Wilson shot in the chest near his heart, but still conscious and dialing 911. The suspects had already fled.
Ambulances and more than a dozen police officers soon arrived.
“We had eight guys with rifles going up one staircase, and eight guys with rifles going up the other staircase,” Prince said. “They had to make up a gurney to get him down the spiral staircase.”
Wilson – a pharmacist at the New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center – and Prince have lived and worked in the famous house for 33 years.
Prince has built homes for clients all over the world, designing them specifically for the site, environment and in response to the owner’s needs.
The “Spaceship” home is a frequent tour stop for sightseers, including trolley tours, in Albuquerque. Prince also owns the distinctive house next door and designed a third one down the street.
Prince said in the three decades they’ve lived there, they have never had a break-in. The Nob Hill neighborhood is home to professors, university students and many professionals.
Now, Prince and friends are working to clean up the broken glass and put everything back where it belongs. He’s not sure yet what, if anything, was stolen. Friends and well-wishers called throughout the day Tuesday responding to the news and asking about Wilson.
“It’s bad enough dealing with (a break-in), but then to have them come into your home and shoot somebody,” Prince said. “Clearly it wouldn’t have mattered to them if they had killed him.”