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5-hour Schenectady standoff ends

5-hour Schenectady standoff ends

A nearly five-hour morning standoff on James Street Wednesday ended with no shots fired and three pe
5-hour Schenectady standoff ends
Police in front of a house on James Street in Schenectady, June 1, 2016.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

A nearly five-hour morning standoff on James Street Wednesday ended with no shots fired and three people in custody, including a man wanted on a parole warrant.

Police ended the standoff just before 11 a.m., sending tear gas into the residence. Two individuals soon came out onto an upstairs porch suffering the effects of the gas. Police also took a third person from the home.

No shots were fired in the incident.

The standoff began just after 6 a.m., when members of the U.S. Marshals Task Force attempted to arrest a man at the 69 James St. home identified as Rafael Gonzalez, 24, of Schenectady.

Task force members received tips in recent days that Gonzalez was there. He’d been wanted for about a month on a warrant accusing him of violating his parole in a 2010 Schenectady drug sentence stemming from a large 2009 Schenectady drug bust.

Task force members spoke to a woman at the door, who confirmed Gonzalez’ presence, a U.S. Marshals official said. Gonzalez reacted to the police presence by barricading himself inside the home. Three others were inside at the time of the arrest attempt. One came out early on. The other two remained inside throughout.

Police responded by blocking off the house. A police negotiator used a loudspeaker to attempt to communicate with those inside. Police received no direct response back.

Members of Gonzalez’ family also contacted him by phone, attempting to get him to surrender, police spokesman Lt. Mark McCracken said.

“He dictated the course of action we were going to take,” McCracken said of Gonzalez. “Just because you don’t want to go to jail doesn’t mean you barricade your door and ignore it.”

In the end, police took all three into custody with no injuries beyond irritation from the tear gas.

Police first tried negotiating through the loudspeaker, McCracken serving as the voice of the operation.

“Come on Raphael, please, do what you know is the right thing to do,” McCracken could be heard saying.

“Listen, before this goes any further, before things happen that nobody wants to have happen, do what’s right,” he said at another point.

McCracken also referenced family either who had responded to the scene or were responding.

One woman arrived on the State Street side of the James Street cordon and identified herself as Gonzalez’ aunt.

A police official assured her that police were doing their best so that no one got hurt.

As the time passed, police and members of its Special Operations Squad took several positions around the house.

Small crowds gathered on either end of the blocked off portion of the street. James Street resident Penny Shafer joined the crowd with her dog Stonie. She lives in a resident in the blocked off area.

“I thought it was crazy,” she said of when she learned of the standoff shortly after 6 a.m.

At about 10:45 a.m., the first loud bang went off. “Oh my God!” another woman on the street could be heard reacting. Others in the crowd screamed. Police later said the bangs were the tear gas going off.

A total of 13 bangs could be heard over 70 seconds. About six and half minutes after the first bang, a man and woman emerged onto the second-floor porch.

Officers on the street demanded they show their hands.

“Hands up! Hands up!” they demanded. “Face us! Face us!”

The two individuals appeared to be suffering the effects of the gas. The man appeared to pass out briefly at one point. “Please help me!” the woman could be heard saying at one point.

Special Operations Squad members, all in full gear, soon emerged from the home and took the two into custody. Police continued to sort out mid-afternoon what involvement the two other individuals had in the standoff.

Police took all three for treatment of tear gas exposure and arrested Gonzalez on his parole warrant.

Gonzalez received six years in state prison in 2010 for his role in a drug operation raided October 2009 on Norwood Avenue, records show. Police then uncovered more than eight ounces of heroin with an estimated street value of $85,000. Police found Gonzalez and another man inside the apartment.

Gonzalez formally pleaded guilty in 2010 to possessing heroin in an earlier traffic stop. He reached his conditional release date in April 2015 and gained his release. He reported to his parole officer as instructed every two weeks until late-April 2016. His failure to report resulted in the warrant being issued for him as an absconder, officials said.

McCracken told reporters afterward he believed the incident turned out well — no loss of life and no injuries beyond the tear gas.

“We reacted to the situation we were given,” McCracken said. “If he would have complied and surrendered peacefully at 6 o’clock this morning, this would have been a non-event.”

Police standoff on James Street

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