Evelyn Wills had heard the sound five years ago when she was hit in the face by a shotgun blast during a liquor store holdup.
This time she thought she was dreaming. "I thought 'Oh Lord, please let me be dreaming.'"
A festive Christmas Day turned into a night of terror for Wills and her large family yesterday morning when three shotgun blasts ripped through their Silver Spring home, passing witin inches of the 15 people inside.
The 4:30 a.m. shooting spree, by the Wills' account, was the work of three young vandals who earlier in the day had attempted to destroy the family's frontyward Christmas display. The Wills told police that one of the suspected vandals was bitten by their dog and that the young men vowed to return to seek revenge.
Montgomery County police are investigating the incident, but have made no arrests, according to a spokesman.
For the last 15 years, the family has set up the nativity scene, displayed plastic reindeer on the roof of their three-bedroom home and strung the eaves with more than 5,000 twinkling lights.
The holiday display has become an annual attraction in their community. In the past, many strangers have stopped by, asking if the lights would be lighted and some have offered to help pay the electricity bill.
Last night the family had noticed a burgundy colored car cruising back and forth in front of the house at 12423 Kemp Mill Rd. Around 1:30 they saw three intruders kicking over the camels in the creche and overturning the Christmas tree in a special shrine the Wills built this year as a tribute to boxing campion Sugar Ray Leonard.
One of the intruders began pulling own a Christmas greeting to the American hostages in Iran, which was taped to the front door of the house.
Just then, Kenneth Wills, 12, and hs brother Kevin, 13, tackled the stranger. The family's two dogs, one a black Great Dane named Jo Jo and the other a tiny Pomeranian, Foxie, were awakened by the ruckus.
Carlton Wills, 28, called the police.
"I told the man if he moved, I was going to have the dog bit him," Wills recalled yesterday.
As the family grappled with the intruder on the porch, a second man -- one of the three alleged vandals -- cane up behind the porch. Suddenly, the two dogs attacked the man, biting him on his thigh and ankle.
Wills said the two men who escaped threatened to come back to seek revenge. He was too nervous to sleep so he went into the basement to play a new Christmas game, Electronic Detective.
Most of the other family members were sacked out in sleeping bags, some of which were Christmas presents. The younger boys were in one room upstairs and the girls were in another with their grandmother, Evelyn, who slept on the floor so her granddaughters could have the bed.
The sound of pellets smashing into the house work Evelyn Wills.
"I could remember the noise from the store," she said "I told everyone to get down."
Slugs ripped through the wall choking the room with plaster dust. A slug passed one foot over Wills' head, embedding itself in the frame of the mirror over her dresser.
The other shotgun blast hit the upper part of the house, penetrated a wall and stopped in a cabinet one foot from Carlton Wills' 7-year-old son Carlton Jr.
The third blast passed through a pictur of Santa Claus, shattering the glass on the storm door, but was stopped by the main door, leaving bubbles in the metal.
"It sounded like the roof was caving in," Carlton Wills said.
Wills said he ran upstairs to check on his mother and son and saw two people in a silver car drive away.
Later, Wills found three spent cartridges on the street. "They must have fired from inside their car," he speculated.
"I was so scared I cried," said 28-year-old Patricia Wills. "I couldn't stop shaking. You don't shoot like that to scare somebody. We had to shake a couple of the little kids to make sure they were still alive."
"Kenneth was so scared," said Toni Wills, one of the family's teen-age daughters, "he went in ot sleep with the girls."
Just two weeks ago, the family said, someone splashed black paint on the front steps of the house. The Wills family said yesterday they have been harassed for the last five years.
"Last Christmas they stole the speakers that played our Christmas carols," said Carlton Wills.