Downtown standoff ends after 20 hours

Posted: Friday, August 21, 2009

A police standoff ended peacefully Thursday afternoon with the surrender of a 49-year-old man that barricaded himself in his downtown apartment for more than 20 hours.

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MICHAEL PENN / THE JUNEAU EMPIRE
MICHAEL PENN / THE JUNEAU EMPIRE

The man, whose name has not been released as of press time because charges haven't been filed, surrendered to police at about noon and was taken to Bartlett Regional Hospital for evaluation. Juneau Police Department officers attempted to serve a court order for his involuntary commitment at about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, which led to the all-night standoff at the Channel View Apartments on Gastineau Avenue involving more than a dozen officers.

"Our officers did a fabulous job by the mere fact that they were able to talk to him and he came out on his own," JPD spokeswoman Cindee Brown-Mills said.

It's not yet clear if any charges will be filed against the man.

"The first thing we want to do is have him evaluated medically, you know, and make sure he is OK," Brown-Mills said. "And from there they will figure out the rest of it."

Details of his surrender were not available as of press time, but Brown-Mills said a lot of progress was made during the last hour of negotiations.

There were several tense moments throughout the negotiation and police used a pepper spray device on numerous occasions to try and drive the man out of the apartment. Incidentally, the device sounds similar to a gunshot.

"It's pretty loud. ... We just wanted to let everybody know that it was not gunshots," Brown-Mills said.

At about 8:25 p.m. Wednesday, glass shattered as the man threw an ax through a window.

"He did have various weapons," Brown-Mills said, adding that officers were not in immediate danger. "At one point police saw a pitch fork, a sword and an ax."

Delores Mazon, a resident of the building who is also a friend of the unidentified man, said she stayed up all night watching the police shooting pepper spray through windows below her apartment.

"I could hear him yelling and screaming and cussing and hitting a lot of things on the walls and everything all night," she said. "He sat out in the window for a while with his samurai (sword)."

It was a pretty scary ordeal to witness up close, Mazon said.

"I called my kids and I told them, 'It's nothing like a movie,'" she said.

The man was not combative with police or medical officials at the hospital, Brown-Mills said.

The man's wife was barricaded inside the second floor apartment for the first few hours of the ordeal but came out of the building - police did not specify how - unharmed at about 8:55 p.m. Wednesday. She stayed at a local hotel for the evening.

Police encouraged building residents to evacuate while the negotiations took place. Seven had left voluntarily that evening and stayed in hotels.

"Most of the floors were just barely affected," said Tom Mattice, city emergency programs manager. "... Most of the residents didn't want to leave and, in their own units, didn't feel affected."

Police and city officials asked residents to leave again Thursday morning as higher quantities of pepper spray were used. About 20 people evacuated the building around 10:30 a.m. and were fed lunch and waited out the standoff at Centennial Hall.

"We just said, 'Look, it might get worse before it gets better. We want you guys to know that we're here to take care of you,'" Mattice said. "So most of them did come down here."

Delores Mazon and her husband, Sam, were at Centennial Hall on Thursday afternoon and said they were ready to go back to their third floor apartment and get some rest.

It was a relief when word came that the standoff had been resolved peacefully, Sam Mazon said.

"It was a good thing that it came out as it did. He didn't get hurt. He turned himself in. The guy needs his medication is all it was," he speculated.

The residents at Centennial Hall had been taken back to their homes by 1 p.m.

The police are grateful for the many people that helped out during the 20-hour ordeal, including the Juneau Alliance for Mental Health Inc., Capital City Fire and Rescue, Gastineau Humane Society and various city departments, Brown-Mills said.

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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