01/06/2008

Details released in Ga. standoff that left 2 officers shot

By MIKE MORRIS, ANDRIA SIMMONS
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
P1 News Report: 2 Ga. officers shot in standoff; suspect found dead

GWINNETT, Ga. — Gwinnett County authorities say a 14-hour armed standoff inside a subdivision started Thursday night when police tried to arrest a man for a previous assault on law enforcement officers.

When it was over Friday morning, a house was riddled with bullet holes, and William Shable Caram was found dead inside a second floor closet with a loaded and cocked pistol by his side.

Two police officers who Caram shot Thursday night were recovering in local hospitals, where they were listed in stable condition.

Gwinnett police went to the house at 5534 White Cedar Terrace in the Saddle Tree subdivision to arrest Caram on charges of aggravated assault on police, said District Attorney Danny Porter. The man allegedly had tried to strike officers with his vehicle while fleeing a traffic stop.

Caram was one of several tenants who rented rooms in the house from the couple who owned it. Porter said the couple let police inside, and officers went upstairs to Caram's room and knocked on the door.

The man responded by firing through the door, striking one officer in the leg and the other officer "multiple times," Porter said.

Police returned fire and fled, helping the couple also to escape. Porter said a third officer dragged the most seriously wounded officer down the steps.

Caram barricaded himself inside, and a SWAT team was summoned. During the next 14 hours, some residents of the subdivision were evacuated, and Friday classes were canceled at nearby Riverside Elementary School.

Through the night, police and SWAT members used negotiations, tear gas and concussion grenades in an attempt to flush out Caram.

Porter said communications with the man were conducted through a mobile robot, but Caram kept saying police needed to send a person inside to negotiate. Police declined.

About 5:30 a.m., officers re-entered the home and again exchanged gunfire with Caram, Porter said. Roughly 90 minutes later, police went back, secured the first floor and placed explosives on interior walls of the house.

Police eventually detonated those explosives and about 10:45 a.m rushed the second-floor bedroom. They found Caram dead in the bedroom closet; he had barricaded himself in a way that allowed him to see out and possibly fire at police, Porter said.

Authorities said the two officers probably were shot with a rifle, but a loaded and cocked handgun was found beside Caram's body. As of Friday afternoon, no one could say how the suspect died.

Investigators are still gathering information about Caram. They know little about his background except that he has family in New York and is about 37 years old.

Lynn Christopher, 33, one of the home's owners, said of Caram, "I never knew him to have any friends. He's real reclusive. Even when he's home, he's usually shut up in his room."

Christopher said the man had lived there only a short time and worked at a hotel, but the homeowner did not know if he still did. He said Caram recently asked him for a reference because he looking for another job.

At midday Friday, as police prepared to leave, residents milled about the front of the two-story brick home that looked like a building in war-torn Baghdad.

One wall of the house had been blown out. Windows, blinds and screens were broken, and bricks were missing from underneath an upstairs window. Inside, near the stairs, a police robot lay on its side. Twenty used tear-gas canisters were strewn about the street.

Ralph Webb, a neighbor who lives across the street from the standoff scene, was home for the entire ordeal.

"I first heard sirens and then could see that Suwanee Dam Road was swarmed with police cars," said Webb. "I heard shots both last night and this morning, and I saw the 20 or so rounds of tear gas being shot in the house between 7 and 8 this morning."

Webb and his wife were the only ones in his house. Their son, who was at work when the shooting began, had to stay with a friend because police blocked the entrance to the neighborhood.

A large group of high school and middle school kids were among those gathered by the neighborhood swimming pool, also across the street from the house. Their schools, North Gwinnett High and Lanier Middle, were not closed Friday, but they could not leave the neighborhood to go to school.

Walt Neuman, who lives next door to the barricade scene, said he was eating dinner with his wife about 8 p.m. Thursday when he heard what he thought were fireworks.

He heard a lot of yelling and looked out the window to see police officers in his yard training weapons on the Christopher house. Gwinnett SWAT officers soon took over Neuman's house and moved him and his wife to another location.

"It was," Neuman said, "something different."

Copyright 2008 Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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