An evicted tenant caused a six-hour standoff with law officials today when he barricaded himself inside his apartment and told neighbors he was armed with explosive devices and other weapons.
Police have since arrested Daniel Wheatley, 32, on charges of making criminal/bomb threats. Wheatley was booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail in San Jose.
All residents were evacuated from the Cypress Pointe Apartments at 8200 Kern Avenue and no one was harmed or injured, according to a GPD press release. Tenants were able to return home after the suspect surrendered himself at 4:21 p.m., just before the Morgan Hill/Gilroy SWAT team was preparing to gas his apartment unit, E102.
"Wheatley presented a credible safety threat. He stated he had a bomb and was in possession of the detonator," states a recent GPD press release. "SWAT officers prepared to introduce chemical agents into his apartment, in an attempt to force Wheatley away from any potential explosive device and safely resolve the incident."
The ordeal caused the entire block of Kern Avenue between First Street and Welburn Avenue to be closed off to the public. Dozens of law officials were summoned from the Gilroy/Morgan Hill police departments, Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department Bomb Squad, SWAT team, Hostage Negotiation Team and even the Gilroy Fire Department (the GFD helped block off the streets). One circulating news report stated that Antonio Del Buono school was placed on lockdown. A GPD press release sent this afternoon also states that Rod Kelley elementary school was placed on lockdown. Staff at both of those schools, however, said that was not the case.
The press release states that police negotiators continuously urged Wheatley to cooperate with law enforcement and surrender, but "Wheatley refused to comply with police direction."
Late into the afternoon, police reported via radio that Wheatley finally confessed "multiple times" there is "no bomb" and that "he lied." Wheatley was arrested and escorted to a transport vehicle. The Bomb Squad then proceeded to sweep the apartment and surrounding area and found no improvised explosive devices or weapons. The streets opened back up around 5:15 p.m.
“I’m ready to go back inside,” said Cypress tenant Maria Velez, 26, as she sat on the curb in the parking lot of O’Reilly Auto Parts on First Street. “I’m bored and I need to get my work gear for my shift at Famous Dave’s tonight.”
The incident began to heat up a little after 10 a.m. today when police received a reports of a disturbance at the Cypress apartments. Witnesses reported that Wheatley made threats that he had a bomb and firearms.
On of the first residents notified was Elvia Castenda, 45, who had just finished breakfast when the police started banging on her door.
“I knew straight away we had to get out,” said Castenda, who along with her family spent the day in the hot sun waiting anxiously to go home.
“We have to get ready for my son’s choir practice at 6 p.m.,” she added, gazing down Kern Avenue toward her apartment.
A neighbor who lives on the E block at Cypress says Wheatley is unemployed. This morning, the neighbor, who refused to give his name, said he heard Wheatley screaming for help from inside his apartment. The neighbor walked up to the window of Wheatley's apartment unit and asked him what was going on. According to the neighbor, Wheatley said he had a bomb, another undisclosed weapon and also brandished a knife. The neighbor claims Wheatley was supposed to be evicted yesterday and that his power had been turned off for several weeks.
Another neighbor said Wheatley keeps to himself but last February was seen wandering around the complex at night "screaming for help." The neighbor also refused to give her name.
Visibly shocked members of the Cypress Pointe management team were unable to comment on the tenant in question. The three employees had been holed up inside the office all day and appeared exhausted after their day-long seclusion.
“The police were handling the situation,” said a blonde-haired woman who refused to be identified. “We were just dealing with phone calls.”
Earlier in the day at 11 a.m., officers continued going door to door and evacuating residents. The senior center on Hanna and Sixth streets was designated as a temporary shelter in case the displaced tenants needed somewhere to go. It is unclear exactly how many residents were evacuated from the complex, which has roughly 160 units.
According to GPD Sgt. Joseph Deras, Wheatley stated he "needs help."
For several hours, police could be heard communicating via radio as they continued to keep Wheatley under vigilant surveillance. Officers said he periodically walked to the window or out onto the porch to scan his surroundings.
"At this point, from the info we have, we don't believe there are any hostages," GPD Sgt. Chad Gallacinao said earlier.
Details are scattered but dialogue recorded from the police scanner reveals the strange string of events that unfolded throughout the day.
At 11:42 a.m., police personnel reported over the radio that an officer was going to use a "remote to disarm the bomb." It was also reported at 11:50 a.m. that Wheatley "placed a knife down on the railing of the porch."
Later, at 1:13 p.m., police reported that "the subject is getting agitated and wants the robot removed."
Two minutes later, a dozen SWAT team members dressed in camouflage rode the BearCat vehicle into the apartment complex. The BearCat is a tactical armored vehicle often used to combat barricaded subjects, hostage situations and bank robberies and is shared by the GPD and MHPD.
Police personnel reported that at 11:55 a.m., Wheatley said he wanted to kill himself. He also said that if police "provide food," he was willing to come out and speak with the GPD "face to face."
An employee who answered the office phone at Cypress Pointe at 11:03 a.m. confirmed all the tenants were OK.
As of 3 p.m., the Senior Center hadn’t seen any displaced Cypress residents come through, according to Anna Bielecki, who is recreation coordinator for the City and works out of the Senior Center.