CDCR Crisis Response Team defuses hostage-taking in Blythe

By Bill Sessa / OPEC

A drug-addled arson suspect surrendered peacefully Thursday in Blythe and a man he had taken hostage was released safely with the help of the Crisis Response Team from Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, authorities said.

The suspect led police and fire officials on a crime spree that terrorized families in four apartments in two complexes and left two injured firemen and homes in ashes before he barricaded himself in an apartment of a young couple with a small child, officials said.   The Blythe Police Department, which only has 21 sworn officers and does not have a SWAT team, called CDCR’s crisis team for help.

“We normally would call the Riverside County sheriff for a SWAT team,” said Blythe Police Chief Steve Smith, “but they are three hours away and we needed someone here quick.”

By the time the CDCR team arrived, the woman and child had been allowed to leave the apartment, but a man was still being held hostage with a shotgun aimed at his head.

The crisis team’s chief hostage negotiator, Correctional Officer Joe Logan, determined that a Blythe police officer was doing a good job of talking with the suspect and shouldn’t be interrupted.  Throughout the five-hour standoff, Logan coached the officer and consulted with the suspect’s father who had come to the scene.

Logan had the father record a message for the suspect, which was played over a bullhorn.

“That had a calming effect on him and got him to pass the shotgun out the window,” said Smith, before the suspect surrendered.  “Without your guys, we wouldn’t have been able to end this peacefully,” Smith added as he praised the work of CDCR’s response team.

“I know what a SWAT team is supposed to do,” said Smith, a former SWAT commander in the Central Valley before becoming Blythe’s chief five years ago.  “They were quick, professional, very disciplined and very well-trained.”

The bizarre chain of events began in the morning when the suspect broke into an apartment apparently chosen at random.

“He was high on drugs and ran into an apartment with a pistol and a shotgun,” said Smith.  The suspect set the apartment on fire, escaped as police closed in on him, and subsequently broke into two other apartments in an attempt to avoid being taken into custody.

In the third apartment, he had a woman gift-wrap his guns, said Smith, evidence of his drug-induced state of mind.

As the suspect then attempted to drive away from that apartment, he drove through a cordon of police cars and fire engines, slightly injuring two firemen.

In addition to CDCR, the Border Patrol dispatched 35 officers to cordon off a large crowd of bystanders at the hostage scene and to keep order in what was a chaotic situation.

“It’s usually a very peaceful town,” said Smith, who has needed to call a SWAT team for help only twice in five years.  “In my 33 years as a cop, I’ve never had a suspect that was both armed and in a burning building,” said Smith.  “Now, we have five crime scenes.”

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34 Responses

  1. John Peck Monday, December 24, 2012 / 7:59 pm

    Outstanding job. Being a CVSP and ISP alum makes me very proud of the amazing work you all do in the desert. John Peck, Commissioner, BPH

  2. SAC Dwayne Davidson Monday, December 24, 2012 / 6:04 pm

    Great work by our people. Makes me proud to be part of CDCR.

  3. Wade Davey Friday, December 21, 2012 / 6:06 pm

    Great job our CRT and Blythe Brothers. Toujours Pret.

  4. L Wilkins, PSA, CIM Wednesday, December 19, 2012 / 7:20 pm

    Great Job to both CVSP and ISP!!

    • Lt. Roque Thursday, December 20, 2012 / 12:30 am

      Good job to CVSP/ISP CRT Team for handling, responding and representing as a professional trained team. Glad everyone is OK!

      “Toujours Pret” “SERT”

  5. R. Lomer Wednesday, December 19, 2012 / 4:39 pm

    I just want to say good job to all my brothers, I wish I could have been there with you. TOUJOURS PRET

  6. L. Rubalcava Wednesday, December 19, 2012 / 7:35 am

    It’s nice for the public to see what we’ve known for years; We are trained, competent peace officers. ISP/CVSP CRT great job!!

  7. JD Bennett (Retired Lt.) Wednesday, December 19, 2012 / 7:27 am

    I was extremely proud to read this story and hear accounts from my Brothers. I am a proud (retired) SERT Brother and this is proof in the pudding that we are still top quality after all these years. Way to go Brothers.

  8. Jose Padilla Tuesday, December 18, 2012 / 4:49 pm

    It s good for the public to see that CDCR can be used in other areas of law enforcement. We are here to enforce public safety also and so it’s nice to see that we can be called to assist in this important area of our mission statement. GOOD JOB to all present that day.

  9. J. Ellis Monday, December 17, 2012 / 10:47 pm

    Excellent job CVSP/ISP team. We are all on the same team. God Bless

  10. Lisa Wilkins, PSA, CIM Monday, December 17, 2012 / 5:16 pm

    Great job to all involved!!

  11. darrol weaver Monday, December 17, 2012 / 4:50 pm

    Outstanding job brothers.

  12. J. Munger, CAL/CEN CRT Monday, December 17, 2012 / 4:32 pm

    Preserving the sanctity of life… way to go Brothers.

  13. Nicky Monday, December 17, 2012 / 4:01 pm

    SVSP/CTF CRT Negotiator, we never know when the crisis will take place. That’s why we train, to be prepared!!! Echoing the obvious, Toujours Pret!!! Live it!!

  14. E. Givan, CRT, Tehachapi, CA. Monday, December 17, 2012 / 12:08 am

    Great Job. Having to respond to a crisis or hostage situation is never something we wish for, but when the call comes through we are ready and ever willing to respond. It is good to see that our teams are being considered for this. This is why we train. Kudos to the CVSP and Ironwood CRT.

  15. D. Lopez, Sergeant, CMC Sunday, December 16, 2012 / 3:58 am

    Great story Bill Sessa, thanks for covering an awesome mission conducted by some of CDCR’s finest. Great job Men!

  16. A. Guirnalda Saturday, December 15, 2012 / 11:03 pm

    Good job to the CRT team from ISP and CVSP. I love reading all the positive information when our brothers and sisters are out there doing a good job. Our Dept. needs that positive image that other agencies can rely on our assistance in times of emergencies.

  17. Steven Comer Saturday, December 15, 2012 / 6:40 pm

    “Toujours Pret” – Never, Never, Never Give Up! Outstanding Job! Be very proud….Hardwork and training does pay off. God Bless

  18. T. Mitchell Saturday, December 15, 2012 / 4:17 pm

    Great Job team!

  19. George Ledbetter, Lieutenant, Wasco State Prison-Reception Center Saturday, December 15, 2012 / 6:55 am

    Great job. Hearing this really brings pride to the badge. This just proves that we are not the knuckle dragging prison guards that the media depicts. We are professionals doing a difficult job under an ever increasing difficult circumstances. Again, great job and you make us all proud!

  20. J. Garewal Saturday, December 15, 2012 / 6:07 am

    Good job brothers!

  21. G. Williams Saturday, December 15, 2012 / 4:49 am

    You guys Rock!

  22. D. FRANKLIN Saturday, December 15, 2012 / 12:24 am

    Good job CVSP/ISP Toujours Pret!!!

  23. J. Herrera Friday, December 14, 2012 / 11:50 pm

    Great Job CVSP/ISP Crisis Response Team!

  24. J. Herrera Friday, December 14, 2012 / 11:49 pm

    Good Job CVSP/ISP Crisis Response Team

  25. Destry Holmes Friday, December 14, 2012 / 11:17 pm

    Extremely proud to hear of such professionalism and dedication. A job well done…! “So others may live”

  26. E. Wimbush, Lieutenant Friday, December 14, 2012 / 10:28 pm

    Even during budget cuts CDCR Crisis Response Team from ISP and CVSP shows great pride with assisting the Blythe Police Department and the Blythe Community……Job Well Done!

  27. RH Friday, December 14, 2012 / 9:05 pm

    Good job and good call by Officer Logan keeping the line of communication going and not getting caught up in an ego trip by just taking over and having to start from scratch. It’s good to see that sort of work being done and as good an outcome as was possible under the circumstances.

  28. E. Jones Friday, December 14, 2012 / 7:49 pm

    Job well done

  29. R Duarte Friday, December 14, 2012 / 6:37 pm

    Despite all the budget issues the state is going through, it just goes to show that CRT is still necessary in the institutions and in the community. Good job CVSP, “Toujours Pret”.

  30. Martin Montuy Friday, December 14, 2012 / 6:28 pm

    Thank you guys

  31. Nancy Segovia-Rutledge SRN II CCI/Tehachapi Friday, December 14, 2012 / 5:55 pm

    Way to Go CRCD Officers!!! Just goes to show how valuable we are to the community. You guys are the BEST!!!

  32. Terri McDonald Friday, December 14, 2012 / 5:48 pm

    The entire department is very proud of the actions of the CVSP team and our training division to prepare us to respond to these types of emergencies. Clearly the CVSP staff, working with Blythe PD, saved innocent citizens. Well done. Terri McDonald, Undersecretary

    • Dave Long, Warden, Ironwood State Prison Friday, December 14, 2012 / 8:25 pm

      I am very proud of our Crisis Reponse Team, which is a combination of staff from both CVSP and Ironwood State Prison. Great job!

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