Local News

Saturday, Mar 15 2014 08:50 PM

West High neighborhood quiet 24 hours after lockdown

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    An ambulance leaves the scene of a shooting Friday evening near Stine Road where a man was holed up in a garage with the SWAT teams coming to the incident.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    A Bakersfield police K-9 unit leaves the scene of a SWAT standoff March 14.

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BY STEVEN MAYER Californian staff writer smayer@bakersfield.com

What a difference a day makes.

On Friday, Rhonda Stanton had to swerve out of the way of a speeding driver being chased by two police vehicles, who then crashed the car he was driving before he ran away on foot.

On Saturday, children were playing and residents were quietly going about their business near Stanton's daughter's home on Parkwood Court, a neighborhood that 24 hours before had been the scene of a massive law enforcement action.

The man, later identified by police as 29-year-old Miguel Villanueva of Bakersfield, would allegedly cause the shutdown of the entire neighborhood, the lockdown of nearby West High School and the mobilization of a small army of law enforcement officers

After a standoff stretching some four hours, Villanueva was shot multiple times during one of several exchanges of gunfire with police at a triplex on McDonald Way and Parkwood Court, just east of West High School.

His condition was listed by police as stable Friday evening. No update was provided Saturday.

No one else was injured in the incident. Villanueva, who police described as a parolee who has prior weapons convictions, gang ties and a charge for evading in a vehicle, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder of a police officer. Additional charges are expected, police said.

A Bakersfield Police Department spokesman reached Saturday said the sheer scale of Friday's multi-agency operation meant it would be some time before a detailed accounting of the incident could be shared with the public.

Questions about how many shots were fired, why the suspect was not forced out of hiding by the tear gas and what kind of gun he used would have to wait.

The standoff began after Villanueva hid in a garage. Over the next several hours, authorities fired tear gas in his direction and deployed a robot to communicate with him.

The incident started at about 3 p.m. when a California Highway Patrol officer attempted to stop Villanueva because he was using a cell phone while driving, police said. Authorities later learned the car, spray-painted black, was stolen.

The pursuit began at Belle Terrace and Castro Lane and ended up near West High. After Villanueva crashed the car into a parked vehicle, police said, the CHP officer temporarily lost sight of him.

A resident told the CHP officer she saw the suspect flee into a detached garage in the 1000 block of McDonald Way and several CHP officers responded to help find him.

The suspect fired at a CHP officer and nearly struck him, police said. Bakersfield police responded to the scene and the suspect fired at them, too, he said. He said at least one BPD officer fired back.

After several hours of negotiation, SWAT officers made contact with Villanueva and an officer-involved shooting ensued, during which the suspect was wounded, police said.

On Saturday, just a few hundred feet from where Stanton parks her car, a police investigative team combed through the garage and the surrounding area. They declined to discuss their investigation.

A small child rode his bike up to the yellow crime tape where an officer cautioned him not to cross. He watched for a few moments before riding off.

"My daughter is OK," Stanton said, looking down the street toward the taped-off alleyway.

"A lot worse could have happened," she said. "God's hands were on the people here. God's hands."

Californian staff writer Ruth Brown contributed to this report.

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