Oct 102005
Authors: James Baetke, Brandon Lowrey

An eight-hour standoff punctuated by explosions of flash-bang grenades and tear-gas canisters ended Monday afternoon when SWAT members arrested an armed fugitive in his home southeast of campus.

A.J. Paul, a 23-year-old wanted for several felony crimes including failing to appear in court Monday to face burglary charges, allegedly hid in a bedroom with a gun and threatened to shoot himself or officers. Police eventually used a robot to scout the house and pumped the bedroom full of tear gas.

The ordeal began at about 9 a.m., shaking the usually peaceful residential neighborhood around the 500 block of Villanova Court. Several SWAT officers arrived at Paul's home to serve him "high-risk" felony arrest warrants, said Rita Davis, spokeswoman for Fort Collins Police Services.

When Paul saw the officers, he bolted into the house. Before long, he ran into the back yard carrying a bag, but darted back inside once he realized SWAT team members had surrounded his home.

About 30 FCPS officers amassed outside the house and blocked off several surrounding streets, shutting some residents out of their homes in the rain.

"Nobody told us we couldn't go back," said resident Kim Zawadzki, who, with her daughter, was trudging back to her car for its heater. "I didn't know exactly what was going on."

Surrounding residents heard several explosions – some thought they were hearing gunshots – as officers blasted tear gas canisters and flash-bang grenades through the windows of Paul's house. His 18-year-old sister, Candice Paul, and mother, Jennifer Paul, ran outside and were arrested after they allegedly interfered with officers.

But Paul didn't respond to the gas or grenades, officials said.

Police put a telephone in the house in hopes of negotiating a peaceful surrender with Paul. He didn't respond to that, either.

"This guy is very resilient," FCPS Lt. Jerry Schager said more than five hours into the standoff. Schager said Paul has a sizeable criminal record, including weapon crimes and resisting arrest.

By about 2 p.m., police had cleared the top floor of the house with the help of a camera and suspected Paul was hiding in the basement. They used a Larimer County Sheriff's robot to safely scout remaining rooms in the house before officers entered to search.

They narrowed the search down to one room and sent in the robot to negotiate at about 4:40 p.m., Davis said.

"Negotiators, through the robot, told him to surrender," Davis said. "He refused at that time, so they deployed (tear) gas through the door. Then he surrendered."

After the arrest, officers recovered one gun from a bag and were searching for another, Davis said.

Zawadzki, one of Paul's neighbors, said police activity at the house had shattered the neighborhood's peace several times in the last two months. She said officers had recently wrestled a man down on the lawn.

Paul's warrants included two for residential burglary and three for failing to appear in court, along with traffic violations. He was being held in Larimer County Detention Center on Monday and will likely face additional charges related to his standoff, Davis said.

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