s
s
Sections
Sections
Search
Subscribe

Man dies in armed standoff with law enforcement in Kenwood


A wanted man died after law enforcement officers deployed tear gas and shot at him Wednesday night, ending a prolonged standoff that began more than 19 hours earlier, when he barricaded himself in a rural Kenwood trailer.

The cause of death was unclear Wednesday night, authorities said.

The man, who at one point in the standoff shot at law enforcement with an assault rifle from the trailer, died outside the trailer after several rounds of tear gas were deployed and after officers fired at him, Sonoma Police Chief Bret Sackett said.

"At one point, he fell to the ground," Sackett said. "Whether it was the action of law enforcement or a self-inflicted wound, we do not know yet."

The standoff, which began late Tuesday, involved a man sought by Napa County authorities on felony assault and child endangerment allegations. Law enforcement officials did not identify the man, saying they were still trying to reach his family and confirm his identity.

Napa County officials said they had obtained a warrant for the man's arrest through a case put together by the county's narcotics task force, which includes the Sheriff's Office and the city-based police departments.

Napa detectives had been looking for him for hours Tuesday and by mid-morning had tracked him to a trailer on Hoff Road, Sackett said.

Because he was believed to be dangerous and in possession of an assault rifle, Napa deputies asked the Sonoma County Sheriff's SWAT team to respond. They arrived between 8 and 9 p.m. Tuesday after obtaining a search warrant for the trailer. The man barricaded himself in the trailer about 11 p.m., according to Napa County authorities, and informed law enforcement that he was taking his girlfriend hostage, Sackett said.

The trailer is on a 3-acre property on the northwest side of Hoff Road, south of Oakmont and just off Highway 12. The property owner, who spoke on the condition his name not be published, said that a longtime friend of his, whom he did not identify, has been staying in the trailer and was there when the man arrived with his girlfriend to stay the night.

He said he did not believe his friend previously knew the couple, but that they apparently have a mutual acquaintance in Napa County. The friend apparently escaped from the trailer before law enforcement arrived.

SWAT teams from the Napa and Sonoma County sheriff's offices and from Santa Rosa and Napa police departments, as well as hostage negotiators and detectives from multiple agencies, responded.

By midnight, the owners of the property with the trailer were awakened by bright lights and the sight of SWAT officers in their driveway.

Santa Rosa's SWAT team took over negotiations and tactical efforts late Wednesday morning, relieving the sheriff's SWAT teams, which had worked all night.

At the scene, yellow police tape blocked the road and law enforcement vehicles lined Hoff Road and Highway 12.

Hostage negotiators spoke with the man into Wednesday afternoon, officials said.

Between 9:30 and 10 a.m., the man allowed his girlfriend to leave the trailer, and she was taken to the Sheriff's Office in Santa Rosa.

The property owners and their family, as well as a handful of other neighbors, were evacuated, while other Hoff Road residents were told to stay in their homes. Sometime between noon and 3 p.m., the man told negotiators that he had committed other violent crimes, including murder, Sackett said. After that, he became less responsive, Sackett said.

Then, at around 6:30 p.m., law enforcement shot tear gas into the trailer in an effort to re-engage the man.

"His response to us was to fire indiscriminately at the deputies from within the trailer," Sackett said. "No deputies were hit, but several vehicles were struck with gunfire."

The deputies fired more tear gas in response, Sackett said.

At that point, shortly before 7 p.m., the man left the trailer. Sackett said his understanding was that he did so with an assault rifle in his hand. Believing that the man posed a threat, law enforcement fired on him, Sackett said.

He fell to the ground, Sackett said. Officials tried to contact the man, at one point sending in a police dog. Subsequent efforts to revive the man were unsuccessful.

The second round of tear gas that law enforcement fired at the trailer started a fire, which was reported at 6:55 p.m. Santa Rosa and Kenwood fire departments responded. Neighbors said the trailer was destroyed.

The suspect was already outside of the trailer by the time it caught fire, Sackett said.

The prolonged standoff rattled the rural neighborhood.

The couple who own the property with the trailer said they looked out at midnight to see "a gigantic" law enforcement vehicle and SWAT officers with serious weapons in their driveway.

When the husband stepped out on the porch, deputies ordered him back inside and told him to lock the doors. A short while later, the couple and their daughter and son-in-law were told they had to dress and were escorted to an armored SWAT vehicle.

"I like watching N.C.I.S. on television," said the man who owns the property where the trailer was situated. He was referring to the TV crime show. "I don't like being part of the episode."

At around 7:30 p.m., the property owner and his family were still waiting to return to their home and let out their dog.

The day, he said, frustration in his voice, was "tiring."

By 8 p.m., most of the law enforcement vehicle had departed and other neighbors were beginning to return to their homes. Two Sonoma County sheriff's deputies were directing traffic at the intersection of Hoff Road and Highway 12, and officials were waiting for a coroner's official to arrive.

Resident Randi Blythe said friends had been calling her and her husband to check on their welfare.

"We've been here 38 years, and there's been nothing like this," she said.

Staff Writer Randi Rossmann contributed to this report.

You can reach Staff Writers Jamie Hansen at 521-5205 or jamie.hansen@pressdemocrat.com and Elizabeth M. Cosin at 521-5276 or elizabeth.cosin @pressdemocrat.com.