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Police standoff shuts down Calif. highway

The Associated Press

SOUTH GATE, Calif. -- A police standoff with a suspected kidnapper shut down one of Southern California's busiest highways for more than four hours until he surrendered peacefully.

Helmeted officers in armored vehicles waited for the 32-year-old gang member to come out of a minivan instead of charging at him because they believed he was armed and dangerous, police said. No weapons were found after Eduardo Medina surrendered Wednesday.

The Long Beach Freeway, heavily used by trucks going to and from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, was closed in both directions, backing up traffic for miles and clogging connecting freeways and local streets.

Still, Los Angeles police Lt. Paul Vernon defended the decision to wait Medina out, saying he was a convicted felon with arrests on robbery and concealed weapons charges.

"We can't take risks with people's lives," he said.

The incident started in Long Beach when undercover Los Angeles officers tried to arrest Medina on charges of trying to kidnap a restaurant owner's daughter for ransom on Dec. 10, Vernon said.

A chase began, and minutes later, the minivan carrying Medina stopped on the freeway east of Los Angeles and was immediately surrounded by armored SWAT battle wagons.

Medina stayed inside, sometimes gesturing to police and deputies. Relatives were brought to the area, and a robot was used to take a telephone to him.

Helmeted deputies trained their weapons on Medina throughout the standoff as television helicopter crews hovered overhead. He surrendered about 4 1/2 hours after the standoff began.

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