When Elliott Wells returned home early Friday to his apartment above D’Allesandro’s Pizza on St. Philip Street, he thought his roommate was playing a trick on him.

Wells’ computer was sitting on the steps and a bank globe resembling the planet Mars was on the stairs. Then he realized there was someone in the house.

He found a prowler hiding behind a door, leading to a floor-rolling tussle where Wells and friend Matt Heck took turns pinning the man down.

The burglar “kept saying he hadn’t done anything wrong, with complete conviction,” Wells, 27, said.

Charleston police charged Nathaniel Cobb, 56, of Spruill Avenue in North Charleston with first-degree burglary. He is being held at the Charleston County jail.

Cobb’s State Law Enforcement Division rap sheet shows an extensive criminal history that dates to 1974, with a petty larceny conviction for stealing gasoline.

Other convictions on his 10-page record include burglary, resisting arrest, drinking in public, aggravated assault and battery, housebreaking and other such crimes.

Harry Sosa, senior police officer with the Charleston Police Department, said he was happy no one was injured during the break-in but advised against anyone confronting an intruder. For starters, the criminal could be armed. Also, there might be others inside the home you don’t at first see, he said.

A safer option is to retreat to the safety of your car and to call police. You can also use a camera phone or video to take a picture of anyone you see, he said.

Wells and Heck believe the man was able to gain entry by stacking beverage crates on a recycling trash can and then climbing to the second floor where a window was broken.

Heck said he’s glad the man was stopped and hopes the intruder “stays in jail for a long time.”

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.