Suspect in storm drain surrenders

VAN NUYS, Calif. The incident caused a bad traffic situation and kept emergency response crews occupied for hours on the southbound side of the 405 near Roscoe Boulevard. The suspect resisted efforts to remove him from the storm drain. He was tear-gassed, and he cut a rope that was lowered to him.

The suspect had a mobile phone with him in the drain. ABC7 was able to interview him over the phone. Shortly before the man surrendered, a woman who claimed to be the suspect's girlfriend called Eyewitness News and gave the suspect's mobile phone number, requesting the man be called.

Part of the conversation was recorded. The suspect said his name is "Shawn."

ABC7: "The biggest question is, why won't you come out?"

Suspect "Shawn": [Unintelligible response, background noise ... ] "I can't see because my eyes are swelled shut from the burns and the dog bites. I have gas all over my eyes. I can't open them."

ABC7: "The question is: Why won't you come out?"

Suspect: "I don't want to lose my freedom. Because I hate losing my freedom."

ABC7: "Well, you're in a storm drain. Do you have freedom in there?"

Suspect: "I know, I know, I know."

ABC7: "Your girlfriend wants you to come out. She's called the station. Your children obviously want you to come out. At some point, you're going to have to face the music."

Suspect: "I know. You going to come down here?"

ABC7: "Pardon me? Can I come down there?"

Suspect, to police: "Hey sir! Listen, I'm talking to ... Leo Stallworth from Channel 7. He's going to come down here right now and then I'm going to come out. I'm talking to the guy on Channel 7 news right now."

Police: "You are? You have a cell phone?"

Suspect: "Yes I do."

After talking with the suspect, Eyewitness News alerted authorities at the storm drain and at the SWAT command center.

Soon after, as the suspect promised, he gave himself up.

Captain Steve Ruda, L.A. City Fire Dept. public information officer, talked to Eyewitness News during the incident:

"As soon as you gave me that information, I turned it over rapidly to LAPD. That was vital information. Kudos to you for doing that. And kudos to LAPD for having the patience to work with you to take that information. You became tactical at that time. But it's very dangerous, because we still have the possibility of going inside, with confined space, to get him out. He wasn't cooperative. We were in the process of changing that, changing to new techniques, but the technique that you gave us was the best: communication."

After 12 hours of barricading himself in a very narrow and confined storm drain, the burglary suspect gave up and crawled out. Police quickly took the suspect into custody.

The suspect was put on a gurney and transported by paramedics at about 2:25 p.m.

Police say the suspect is facing multiple charges, including burglary.

LAPD Deputy Chief Michel Moore said the drain was a hazard to the suspect's and rescuers' health due to roadway runoff of "gas and anti-freeze and battery acid and God knows what else."

Police were able to open two lanes at about 5 a.m., but the damage was done, as traffic backed up on the freeway during the morning commute.

Police said the suspect attempted to burglarize a business on the 800 block of Haskell Avenue. He and another suspect allegedly attempted to steal copper wiring from the business when they were interrupted by police.

One man was arrested at the scene, while the other fled into the storm drain.

There were serious concerns about the suspect's safety because he had been in the drain for more than six hours.

Crews pumped oxygen into the storm drain for several hours as they continued their efforts to get the suspect out.

At one point, authorities said they were inside, close enough to touch the suspect and even tried to put a rope around him, but the suspect was able to wiggle his way out of their reach.

Authorities told the suspect repeatedly that his life was at risk by staying in the storm drain, but he refused to come out.

No suspect information has been released.

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