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Former Football Star Surrenders After 2-Hour Standoff With Deputies

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After threatening to kill himself and his infant son during a two-hour standoff with sheriff’s deputies, a former Newbury Park football star surrendered and was arrested Monday afternoon, authorities said.

Deputies said Leodes Van Buren, 20, made the threats during a dispute with the baby’s mother, a 17-year-old Corona girl. The couple were apparently arguing over who would get custody of their child once they broke up, a relative said.

Because he was in possession of a deadly weapon--a knife he used to cut his wrists--Van Buren faces charges of violating the terms of his probation from a 1994 arrest in Newbury Park.

Officers said those wounds were minor and Van Buren refused medical treatment. The 2-month-old baby, Leodes Van Buren Jr., was found upstairs sleeping and unharmed.

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About 15 officers were on the scene during the standoff, which began about 2:30 p.m. A SWAT and hostage negotiation team were requested but never deployed because an officer called Van Buren on the telephone and persuaded the man to give himself up before the teams arrived.

Monday’s standoff, which left residents in the neighborhood just off Ventu Park Road and Hillcrest Avenue upset and frightened, was just the latest chapter in a saga that began with Van Buren’s excellence on the football field and ended with him serving jail time.

He was known as one of the best high school receivers in the state, a young athlete who led his 1993 Newbury Park High School team to an undefeated season and the Southern Section’s Division III championship.

In 14 games he caught 101 passes, sweeping into the end zone for 20 touchdowns. His skills won him a scholarship to the University of Colorado.

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But then he became known as the teenager who shot a gun through the locked glass door at the home of his then-girlfriend, Marcie James, while she was standing inside.

He was convicted and sentenced to six months in jail. A judge said then that he deserved the term, even though James had changed her story, saying she had falsely accused Van Buren because she was angry at him for cheating on her.

During the course of the trial the couple married, and the judge said he believed Van Buren had coerced her to change her story.

After serving his term, Van Buren moved to Corona to live with his mother. He lost his scholarship. Then he and James, with whom he has an older daughter, broke up.

Van Buren had come up from Corona on Sunday night to stay at the home of his foster father, Ken McGee, because he had a court appearance early Monday morning to report on the hours of community service he had worked.

McGee said he had no idea the girlfriend, whose name was not released because she is a juvenile, or the baby were at his home on Paseo La Perla, and that Van Buren had been alone when he arrived the night before.

He said the young couple had been having problems, wrestling with parenthood and the issues of custody. Van Buren “loved his children very much,” McGee said, and wanted to play a role in his son’s life.

The scene he found at his home when he arrived home Monday evening, after Van Buren’s arrest, surprised him.

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“I expected him to be here when I got home,” McGee said.

Instead, Van Buren was gone, undergoing a psychiatric evaluation by a mental health team. A television truck was parked at the curb, neighbors were standing on their front lawns and he found the signs of a struggle inside his home. Baby powder was spilled across the carpet.

Hearing that the foster child he had cared for since age 12 was once again in police custody was painful, he said.

He said Van Buren had been working odd jobs at minimum wage, including a stint at a pizza parlor, to pay the rent on his Corona apartment. Van Buren was trying to put past mistakes behind him and still thinking of a football comeback.

“It’s very upsetting,” McGee said. “It’s very frustrating.”


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