Man in custody after 5-hour standoff in Modesto

bclark@modbee.comJanuary 6, 2013 

    alternate textBrian Clark
    Title: Senior Editor, Digital
    Coverage areas: Breaking news
    Bio: A Berkeley native, Brian graduated from San Diego State University in 1986. His newspaper stops included 18-month stints at the Turlock Journal and The Las Vegas Review-Journal before accepting a job in Modesto in 1990. While at The Bee, he's worked as a sports and news copy editor, sports editor and weekend news editor before joining the online team in 2008.
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— A man who barricaded himself inside an east Modesto gas station mini-mart after threatening people and an officer with a chain and trashing the store was arrested late Sunday night after a roughly five-hour standoff.

The incident inside the Shell gas station on Oakdale Road just south of Merle Avenue began around 6 p.m.

At about 10:45 p.m., SWAT team members moved into the back of the station's store and took into custody a man officers believe was under the influence of a controlled substance.

Lt. Rick Armendariz of the Modesto Police Department said the unidentified man, believed to be in his 20s or 30s, was incoherent and rambling as officers made first contact with him. He had to be placed in restraints and resisted officers as he was being placed in an ambulance.

The incident unfolded before about 100 or so onlookers standing on the sidewalk along the busy Modesto street despite temperatures in the mid-40s.

Just before 6 p.m., police received a report regarding a man in a dispute with another person and armed with a chain inside the station located at the shopping center that includes the Orchard Supply Hardware and Starbucks.

When police arrived, the man approached one of the responding officers with the chain in his raised hand, Armendariz said. The officer tried to use a Taser on the man, who went back into the business.

The man also threatened at least one employee and one customer, Armendariz said.

Police evacuated the employees and customers from the business, which also includes a taqueria and donut shop.

The suspect knocked down shelves, broke bottles and waved pieces of glass around while inside the store, police said.

Armendariz said police deployed a Taser twice and possibly hit the man with a baton, but he continued his rampage.

After all but the suspect were evacuated, officers with weapons drawn kept watch as negotiators talked with the man through a side door.

In addition to the destruction inside the store, at least one officer saw the suspect putting broken glass into his mouth, Armendariz said.

Knowing the business had been evacuated, having a good idea where in the store the man was hiding and feeling there was no imminent threat to anyone else, Armendariz said officers were able to slow down the tempo of the scene and approach the situation with less than lethal resources.

"Our focus was on the safety of the suspect and officers," he said.

Police tape surrounded the gas station property, but there was plenty of good viewing for those driving along busy Oakdale Road and those who parked their vehicles in the center and walked over to watch.

Among the people in the crowd were a man from a nearby apartment complex, a family toting a newborn, a few people who had just been to Mass at nearby St. Joseph's Catholic Church and newshounds with police scanners and cameras or phones ready to snap photos and video.

Armendariz said he was surprised by the crowd of people given the cold night, but added he "could understand why people would be attracted to seeing an event unfold right before their eyes."

Just before 11 p.m., it did.

Officers had pretty much pinpointed where the suspect was given their clear view of the front, a view of the back from the drive-thru window and the sounds coming from the back office.

About eight SWAT team members slowly marched into the store through the front double-doors facing Oakdale Road. They then headed to the office in the northeast portion of the building.

Armendariz said the suspect knocked down a bunch of debris in front of the door, which the suspect also was holding shut as officers arrived.

The SWAT team cleared the debris, got the door open and quickly subdued the suspect. He was ushered onto an awaiting gurney at a door on the north end of the building as officers shielded him from a crowd that rushed over to catch a glimpse of him.

The owner of the taqueria, who was worried about possible damage to his store inside the store, said he's run his business there for over three years. He said outside of a few "beer runs," the station has been relatively free of crime.

He was not inside when the incident began. His store had closed about an hour earlier.

Armendariz said the suspect faces a number of charges. He said detectives will look over surveillance video and talk to additional witnesses.

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