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Lake County hostage situation ends with man arrested, child safe

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A Clearlake man suspected of holding his brother and a boy hostage in the Lake County town was arrested Friday night after a 33-hour standoff.

The situation that police believe was a domestic dispute ended peacefully when Francisco Morales-Gomez, 31, released the child, a family member whom he is suspected of holding hostage, said Clearlake Police Chief Andrew White. Officers arrested Morales-Gomez soon after, and no one was injured in the dispute.

The incident started about 8:40 a.m. Thursday in Morales-Gomez’s house near 29th and Boyles avenues in southeastern Clearlake, White said. The child’s mother called the police after fleeing the house when Morales-Gomez pointed what police suspect was a rifle at her. Morales-Gomez was “acting irrationally” and produced the weapon during a conversation with his family members, White alleged.

Officers surrounded the property and ordered the people inside to come out. Morales- Gomez’s brother came out of the house, but White said it wasn’t clear yet if the suspect allowed him to leave the house or if he escaped. Morales-Gomez, still holding the gun, briefly peeked out the front door with the boy, who is younger than 10, before going back inside, White said.

“He refused to come out and he made threats to shoot law enforcement officers,” White alleged. “He was refusing to let the child come out of the residence.”

Police called for reinforcements, and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, Mendocino County Sheriff-Coroner, CHP, Fish and Wildlife and Lake County Fire Department arrived to help with negotiations.

By Friday morning, Morales-Gomez and the boy were still inside the house. The only demand he made while inside the house, White said, was when he asked for food. Officials left pizza outside the house, but Morales-Gomez never made a move to retrieve it.

Shortly after that, though, he released the boy by lowering him out of a window Friday night. The SWAT team used a ladder to recover the boy about 6 p.m., White said. Meanwhile, Morales-Gomez attempted to escape out of another window, but officers found him and took him into custody.

Morales-Gomez’s motivations are still unclear, White said. Officers will interview all the individuals involved to learn more about the situation, but White said it was still early in the investigation.

During the incident, neighbors in six nearby houses were evacuated and the road was closed, White said. After the suspect was taken into custody, all residents were allowed to return home and the road was reopened.

“The safety of the community was our top priority,” White said. “Sometimes it requires that type of action.”

He added, however, that police purposefully avoided sending Nixle alerts because they wanted to better target their alert to nearby residents and protect the victims in the case.

The last high-profile hostage case in Clearlake came four years ago, when a man held two women at gunpoint before police shot him multiple times.

You can reach Staff Writers Chantelle Lee at 707-521-5337 or chantelle.lee@pressdemocrat.com and Tyler Silvy at 707-526-8667 or at tyler.silvy@pressdemocrat.com.

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