A tense six-hour standoff that evoked images of the fatal shooting of a Simi Valley police officer two weeks ago ended peacefully Sunday when nervous deputies and SWAT teams waited out a reportedly armed and suicidal man who barricaded himself in his Camarillo home.
As authorities waited with automatic weapons trained on the Santa Anita Court house, John Smith, 65, lifted his garage door, walked out and surrendered to police at 4:19 p.m., hours after his wife had called police. Authorities said Smith was suicidal, armed and had been drinking.
The ordeal ended without a struggle and without injury as two SWAT team members in moved in and handcuffed Smith. Smith was taken to Ventura County Mental Health, and was to be held for a 72-hour observation period, police said.
During the standoff, the death two weeks ago of Simi Valley Police Officer Michael Clark, who was fatally shot while answering a call on a potentially suicidal man, weighed on the minds of police and neighbors.
“It went through my mind as soon as I heard the call this morning,” said Daniel G. Place, senior deputy with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. “I thought, ‘Oh jeez, not another one.’ ”
Sunday’s incident began at 10:33 a.m., when Smith’s wife, whose name was not released, called police. She and a housekeeper then left the house.
The quiet cul-de-sac in northern Camarillo was soon flooded with 44 deputies, SWAT team members, police negotiators, paramedics, firefighters and a mental health crisis intervention team. At least three neighboring houses were evacuated, Place said.
Deputies tried to contact Smith, who did not respond to a police bullhorn or telephone calls.
Jennifer and Jan Ryland, who live across the street from Smith, stayed in their house throughout the incident. SWAT team members had told them it wouldn’t be safe for them to leave.
“It scared us to death when those two SWAT guys appeared in my kitchen,” Jan Ryland said. “I was like, ‘Hello.’ ”
Police used two cruisers to close off the block-long cul-de-sac and diverted traffic from nearby Mission Drive.
For hours, SWAT team members in protective armor and helmets stayed positioned around the Smith house--flattened against a wall near the driveway and hiding behind nearby bushes.
The street remained quiet, except for the breeze and the occasional squawk of a police radio.
Finally, Smith opened the garage door and walked out.
Smith was arrested, handcuffed and after a brief wait, helped into a squad car. When asked why he had barricaded himself in the house, he said only, “I guess my wife called the police.”
At the corner of Santa Anita Court and Daphne Street, Larry Weaver brought in two moving vans that had been parked several blocks away during the incident and began to unload furniture into his new home. Although he was moving from Riverside County, he had lived in Camarillo before, he said, and was surprised by the scene he had just watched unfold.
So was Ryland, who described Smith as a friendly, pleasant man.
“I think he deserves another chance,” she said. “He just went off the deep end today. No one knows why.”