2nd standoff ends peacefully

Published 10:58 pm Monday, December 29, 2008

The second city police standoff in less than a week ended peacefully Sunday, when a 42-year-old Suffolk man turned himself in to police after spending two and a half hours locked in a room in a house on E. Washington Street.

Dennis L. Smith was arrested without further incident after a police negotiator talked him out of the home, according to Suffolk spokeswoman Debbie George.

Police received a tip just after 4 p.m. Sunday that a wanted man was located in the 1100 block of E. Washington Street. When they arrived in the area, they spotted Smith, who had two active warrants on file for probation violations, George said in a press release.

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When he saw police, Smith fled into the residence where he rented a room, George said Monday. Police tried to apprehend Smith, and he locked himself inside a bedroom in the home.

When they were unsuccessful in communicating with him, police cleared the home of its other occupant and called the department’s Critical Incident Response Team, which includes a negotiator, George said.

Sergeant Danny Buie, the negotiator, arrived on the scene, and police threw a “throw phone” into the room. George described the throw phone as a combination speaker/microphone that allows police to talk to a barricaded suspect and listen to whatever is happening inside the space where he is hiding.

“They don’t have the option of turning it off,” she said. And the equipment is sensitive enough to pick up the sound of someone loading a weapon. “It’s pretty sensitive.”

Smith surrendered to police at about 6:30 p.m. He was charged with violating probation on his original charges of cocaine distribution and forgery and uttering.

It was the second standoff resolved peacefully in Suffolk in four days. A five-hour standoff that started on Christmas Eve concluded with 25-year-old Michael Anthony Smith giving himself up at about 5:45 a.m. Christmas morning.

Michael Smith was arrested on robbery, attempted robbery and firearms charges that stemmed from the robbery at gunpoint of two people leaving a Christmas party on Battery Avenue late Dec. 24.

The Critical Incident Response Team also responded to that call, and a negotiator was able to talk the suspect out of the York Street home in which he had barricaded himself.

George said that the CIR team handles such incidents “on a case-by-case” basis, evaluating factors including the suspect’s history, the type of crime involved and the suspect’s history of violence when deciding on whether to use force to put an end to a standoff.

“We like to keep it as low-key as possible, but we want to keep people safe,” she said.

Police standoffs in Suffolk, she said, “truly (do not occur) very often.” For two standoff incidents to occur so close together, she added, is extremely unusual.

Both incidents concluded without injury to the police, the suspects or innocent bystanders.

“That is a happy ending,” she said.