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SWAT teams are golden in the Golden State

"Jackpot is good, suspect is down," was the transmission that announced the successful conclusion of a 56-hour standoff

Anthony Alvarez was a suspect in three robberies, including the robbery of the US Bank on Clayton Road in Concord, California. If that was not probable cause enough for a no-knock warrant, it is noteworthy to also mention he had shot at Concord police officers as he fled from the scene of a traffic stop. He was also a suspect in a Bay Area homicide.

Alvarez managed to evade capture, but officers of the Concord PD continued their dogged pursuit and asked for assistance after they received information that Alvarez was staying with his female cousin at her apartment located at 2400 Arden Way in Sacramento. On June 9th at 1130 hours, the apartment was approached by members of the Sacramento Sheriff Department’s Major Crimes Unit as well as the members of the FBI and Concord Police Department.

When Alvarez became aware of the officers he retreated inside the apartment deciding to use a 16-month-old baby named Michael as a shield.

A robot carries supplies for suspect Anthony Alvarez and the 15-month-old boy that he has barricaded himself with at the Arden Towne Apartments in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, June 11, 2010. (AP Photo)
A robot carries supplies for suspect Anthony Alvarez and the 15-month-old boy that he has barricaded himself with at the Arden Towne Apartments in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, June 11, 2010. (AP Photo)

Officers were able to quickly secure the perimeter and even rescue a four year old child by pulling the child through a rear window of the apartment.

The Standoff Develops
Throughout the standoff, the Sacramento City Police Department’s SWAT Team as well as the Sacramento County Sheriff’s SWAT Team joined to allow for regular relief on the perimeter, during the marathon standoff. Alvarez fired at officers multiple times. The Critical Incident Negotiation Team made contact and attempted to bring the incident to a peaceful conclusion. They tried to convince the 26 year old criminal to give up or at least to give up the child. Instead the message coming through loud and clear was, “I have guns and I am not coming out.”

Releasing the child was not in the cards either. According to Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department Information Officer Sgt. Tim Curran, “During the whole time the baby was in close proximity to the suspect.”

At one point negotiators brought in the suspect’s mother to attempt to convince Alvarez to give up but this effort proved fruitless.

Tireless Efforts
Officers and team members secured the scene and then cordoned off the area. They conducted an evacuation of the immediate area, while arranging for temporary lodging for displaced residents at a local high school.

The teams used a robot to clear out the blinds from an apartment window to allow a clear view into the apartment and prevent the blinds from being used as concealment. Alvarez fired at the robot and the armored vehicle that was in the area — at times officers on the perimeter returned fire, but eventually they held fire and remained behind cover.

A fire hose was used to clear the opening and also make the apartment less comfortable for its criminal occupant. Negotiators attempted to gain some good will by sending the robot in with food and water. The suspect could be seen via the robot’s camera holding on to baby Michael — now code-named “Jackpot” — as an apparent shield.

As the hours then days passed, every team member sensed they had one clear cut mission which was to get baby Michael out safely. After all, Alvarez had decided to be a criminal. He had decided to shoot at police and he had decided to refuse to surrender. Little Michael was as innocent as a potential victim could be. Little Michael’s safe return to his mother was this team’s Holy Grail. The code name was appropriate since his rescue would most certainly be better to any SWAT Team member than any jackpot of any size. Their efforts would be continuous and tireless toward this end.

At 1924 hours on Friday, June 11th , members of the Sheriff’s Explosives Ordinance Detail used an explosive ordinance device to breach an interior wall of the apartment in an attempt to determine, where the suspect was hiding, When the smoke cleared a team member looked through the hole in the wall and saw Alvarez. He was true to his word. He had guns and he was not coming out. He engaged the officer in a gun fight and the officer returned fire. At the same time, an entry team entered through an already breached window and engaged the suspect also.

Alvarez had refused to surrender and refused to release young Michael. He had done everything he could to trigger a gun fight with the police and now he had his gun fight. This gunfight was with highly trained honorable gunfighters, whose motives were pure and goals were clear, “Take Alvarez into custody if possible, but save baby Michael.”

Those on the perimeter and in the command post waited breathlessly. The explosion from the breach was followed by a slight pause and then shots, quick and furious, marking the passing of the most desperate moment of those officer’s lives. Then there was quiet.

The tense quiet was broken by one clear and memorable radio transmission, “Jackpot is good. Suspect is down.”

If this could be compared to any sporting event it would have been a winning grand slam in the ninth inning of game seven in the World Series. But this was not the World Series. There would be no team piling on top of the runner as he crossed home plate. There would be no champagne shower in the locker room. There would be neither a golden trophy, nor million-dollar promotional deals. This was not a game. There was much more at stake. Alvarez had his gunfight and he lost. He was pronounced dead at the scene and one SWAT Officer would be treated and released for a serious laceration sustained from a broken shard of glass as he made entry through a window.

However, this historic event would have its iconic image worthy of the disciplined and heroic efforts of everyone involved in the rescue. Walking quietly and calmly from the chaotic scene would be just one lone SWAT officer cradling baby Michael in his arms.

After risking all, the Sacramento SWAT Team had won “the Jackpot.”

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