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San Diego

A gunman described as suicidal and despondent over breaking up with his girlfriend was holding San Diego police at bay Tuesday night, almost eight hours after he entered the K mart store in Mira Mesa and threatened to shoot himself with a rifle.

Police identified the man as Ben Parrin, 23, who had been the subject of an earlier search when police received word that he was suicidal. Lt. David Spisak, in charge of the team negotiating with Parrin, said Parrin entered the store about 1:40 p.m. and asked to see a .22-caliber rifle. Police said he then pulled a bullet from his pocket, put it in the chamber and threatened to kill himself. Police were summoned and the store was evacuated, while Parrin moved to the television department.

At 4 p.m., the gunman fired two shots into the ceiling, but nobody was injured. Police negotiators were still talking to him at 9 p.m. and a police spokesman said the officers had not fired any shots. Before he fired the shots, Parrin had traded a box of bullets for a package of cigarettes with a police negotiator, Spisak said. However, police were not sure how much ammunition Parrin had with him or how he obtained it.

The man’s father was brought to the scene and told police that his son was a methamphetamine user and was despondent because he had broken up with his girlfriend three days earlier, Spisak said. Police tried during the afternoon to locate the woman and bring her to the scene to talk to the gunman.

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