Thursday, February 9, 2012
Police surrounded a large North County mobile home park, fanned out en masse through surrounding areas and searched door-to-door for more than 15 hours today after a parolee-at-large allegedly threatened the lives of his ex-girlfriend her children, then opened fire on pursuing officers.
The Escondido woman contacted police about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday to report receiving the threats from her former boyfriend, 24-year-old Sergio Alfredo Lopez, Lt. Mike Loarie said.
Officers searched in vain for Lopez until about 12:30 this morning, when patrol personnel with a service dog spotted the suspect and chased him as he fled into Escondido Terrace Mobile Home Park in the 1300 block of Oak Hill Drive, according to Loarie.
Lopez, an Escondido resident, allegedly fired two rounds from a pistol at the two officers as he ran, missing them.
Police then took up positions around the perimeter of the trailer park as SWAT officers and sheriff's deputies searched for the suspect.
As of 10 a.m., Lopez apparently was still alternately hiding and moving around within the residential complex. About an hour later, though, police got a report that a seemingly out-of-breath man matching Lopez's description was in the area of an apartment complex on San Pasqual Valley Road, just outside the police cordon.
"We have some people ... across the street (who) said they spotted him," Loarie said. "We showed them (his) picture, and they said that's him, so we're going to act on that."
Shortly after 1 p.m., police officials got word of a nearby home-invasion crime that they initially believed might have been carried out by Lopez. However, the incident, in which a man allegedly followed a woman into her apartment and pulled a knife on her before officers stormed in and arrested him, turned out to be unrelated.
The intense, protracted standoff and methodical search for Lopez kept those who live and work in the area on edge throughout the day.
"I'm a little nervous now, because I can see two snipers up the hill from us and big SWAT trucks driving around the park," resident Nicole Miller said in the mid-morning.
Miller said she witnessed the incident unfolding from the beginning.
"I was actually awake because my baby woke up," Miller said. "My fiance and I heard a bunch of yelling, then two gunshots. We jumped up out of bed and looked out the front window, thinking maybe there was a domestic fight, but there was Escondido police running around with guns and dogs yelling for a guy to come out.
"They had rifles drawn, then the police were telling people to go back inside. Then SWAT showed up and had all their gear on."
The mobile home complex consists of about 80 or so coach spaces, Loarie said, noting there were "thousands" of possible hiding spaces for the suspect, from garbage cans and storage sheds to crawl spaces under the residences.
Those living in the park and adjacent areas were allowed to leave at daybreak after officers searched their vehicles. However, no one was to be allowed back into those neighborhoods until further notice.
The lieutenant said anyone spotting the suspect should avoid confronting him and immediately call 911.
"Stay on the phone with us, as long as you're in a position of safety," Loarie said. "Let us know. We'll have officers there within seconds."
Police officials expected to begin letting the public back into the perimeter area in the early evening, even if Lopez remained at large, the lieutenant said.