A report of an active shooter in downtown San Diego that brought the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon to a standstill for more than 30 minutes ended when police arrested a woman who had been armed with an airsoft gun.
The suspect, a 58-year-old woman named Mona Elease Williams, was arrested after a pursuit through the San Diego Concourse parking structure, San Diego police Chief David Nisleit said.
One officer accidentally shot himself in the leg while pursuing the suspect and was taken to a hospital with injuries not considered life-threatening. No one else was hurt.
Although not related to the marathon, the incident occurred near the finish line and prompted race officials to shut down the course and redirect about 4,900 participants to San Diego City College.
“Please keep in mind this investigation is ongoing,” said San Diego police Capt. Mike Hastings. “We’re very, very early on. Things change as we know as facts end up getting revealed.”
The situation began as a call about a misdemeanor hit-and-run crash near West A Street and Kettner Boulevard about 10:50 a.m., said San Diego police Sgt. Tom Sullivan.
A person involved in the crash flagged down a sergeant working the marathon and pointed out the car that fled. The sergeant followed the vehicle to a parking structure at 100 W. C Street and saw the woman waiting at the entrance behind another vehicle.
When the sergeant approached the woman’s car, she reportedly pointed a gun at the sergeant before driving inside.
A team of officers was assembled to go in after her. An officer who saw the woman still holding the gun “fired at least one time at her to end the threat,” police Lt. Matt Dobbs said in a statement.
It’s unclear what prompted the shooting. Nisleit said at some point the crew of a police helicopter thought they observed the woman firing onto the street below.
Soon after, the woman threw her weapon, later determined to be an airsoft gun, over the side of the parking garage onto A Street.
She surrendered to SWAT officers and was arrested.
A number of streets surrounding the parking structure were shut down as dozens of patrol officers descended on the area.
Race officials said in a statement that they were told there was police activity that required the race to be shut down at 11:43 a.m. The course was closed two minutes later.
Shortly before noon, runners were cleared to resume their progress “towards the finish line and the post-race finish area where they were able to meet up with their family and friends,” Josh Furlow, managing director of the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon Series, said in a statement. “We are incredibly grateful for the quick response and partnership with first responders as we worked together to keep our athletes safe.”
Marathon officials said they make plans with police officials to determine where runners can be diverted in the event of an emergency. Furlow said the sites include churches and schools along the race route, although he would not say how many sites were selected.
“It all has to be on the fly because you never know when something pops up,” said Furlow.
Furlow said San Diego City College was selected because the campus features a large plaza.
Although many participants had already completed the event before the incident, thousands of others were stopped in their tracks — some moments before finishing.
Carlee Ihm of Coronado and Santee’s Amy Scarborough were walking the half marathon when, at about two-tenths of a mile from the finish, a race official told them, “Stop where you are. Don’t go any further.”
The walkers were told there was nearby police activity.
“They told us to clear the road,” said Scarborough.
The two were diverted to San Diego City College, and after a nearly half-hour delay, the women finished the half marathon.
“I really think they snapped into action,” said Ihm.
“There was no panic. No fear. I was a hot mess, but everyone else was calm,” said Scarborough, “They kept everyone cool.”
Theatergoers were also affected by the incident.
Access to the San Diego Civic Theatre was blocked as officers investigated the incident, leaving those who had planned to see the afternoon performance of “Les Misérables” stranded.
Theater workers were handing out free bottles of water to attendees who were waiting outside for doors to open.
Charlotte Behler said she was with her grandmother and grandfather when police cars started streaming into the area. They went into Al Teatro Panini Grill, where the owner informed them of the incident. They stayed inside for three hours.
“She kept us safe and well fed,” said Janet Behler, Charlotte’s grandmother.
Police initially thought the woman involved in the downtown incident was the same person being sought in a kidnapping attempt in Chula Vista Sunday morning. A man said his ex-girlfriend had tried to kidnap him before she got in her car. He told police the woman was suicidal and may be headed to Ocean Beach.
The suspect in the kidnapping had a similar physical description and vehicle as the woman in the parking structure. However, police later determined the two incidents were not related, said Chula Vista Lt. Dan Peak.
The 31-year-old suspect in the Chula Vista case was arrested in Temecula after she called 911 to say she was suicidal. She was being transported to Chula Vista and faced charges of kidnapping and felony domestic violence, Peak said.
Freelancer Don Norcross contributed to this report.