The resolution to the dramatic 11-hour stand-off between law enforcement and two armed bank robbery suspects holed up in a South Lincoln Avenue duplex came down to what Manteca Police Chief Dave Bricker refers to as the three “T”s – time, talk, and tear gas.
“I’m very impressed with the job our guys did,” Bricker said of the operation that involved 45 personnel with just over half of them being trained volunteers who handled traffic control and logistics to free up officers from Manteca and other agencies to concentrate on getting the suspects out and into cuffs.
Bricker called the operation a success noting no one was injured – save one suspect who had to be enticed into surrendering after K9 officer Gage bit him in the face – both suspects were arrested, and the bank’s money was recovered.
The suspects – along with a possible third accomplice – had picked the Friday before a three-day weekend at noon assuming that the bank would have more money on hand.
What they didn’t count on, Bricker said, were Manteca’s citizens.
“We were getting cell calls from people as they (the suspects) started walking toward the doors,” Bricker said.
While 9-1-1 calls were flooding dispatch, all officers were alerted of the situation. Traffic officers John Machado and Bill Walmer were within a half block of the bank.
The police chief said that as the suspects fled citizens helped direct officers to where they were headed.
Bricker said officers tried repeatedly to get the suspects to surrender before making the decision to use the tear gas before it got too dark.
“The tear gas we use isn’t like the stuff you see on TV where they toss a big canister in and smoke fills up the entire place,” Bricker said.
Law enforcement agencies stopped using the “old-style” tear gas years ago. The reason is simple. They had a tendency to burn and would often catch buildings and/or other items on fire.
Officers now deploy smaller 37mm canisters that do not catch on fire and only emit enough tear gas to effectively fill a small room. Police had to shoot canisters into every room of the duplex and garages plus with some rooms getting two canisters.
They had no way of knowing if the suspects were in the attic at the time and even if they did there was no way to lob one into the attic. It also meant the tear gas had to permeate up into the attic.
The safer tear gas is similar to other devices police have added to their repertoire to protect suspects as much as possible who refuse to cooperate and pose a threat including rubber bullets and Tasers.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org