A man who was apparently growing more and more troubled in his life killed himself during the night of a standoff with law enforcement, following a report of domestic violence and child endangerment.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s office reported that on Friday night, May 16 at 9 pm, deputies were sent to a home on Manka Circle in the Larkfield/Wikiup area north of Santa Rosa. They interviewed a woman reporting that her husband, 39-year-old Glen Swindell, had kept her in their van while it was parked in front of their house during a dispute, and that he had then taken their two young children into the home against her wishes. She reported to them that he had had previous issues with domestic violence, and that he was potentially armed with two rifles and a handgun in the house.
Now dealing with both a domestic violence and false imprisonment case, the deputies established priorities of safeguarding the children, and arresting Swindell. Within 25 minutes, they reported that the deputies were able to establish a dialog with the man, and he released the children before 10 pm. He himself, however, refused to come out, and the deputies set about to accomplish their next goal, detaining Swindell.
Tyler Swindell, who identified himself as Swindell’s oldest son from a previous marriage, posted a comment on the Santa Rosa Press Democrat’s story of the incident. He stated that Swindell never held his wife or kids against their will, and only wanted his wife to go elsewhere in the car while he “cooled down” at home. He also states that the only dispute between Swindell and his wife was about who would keep the kids while they were apart, which was why the call for help was made.
The Sheriff’s office reported that they kept up a dialog with Swindell over the next two and a half hours over the phone, until that ended at 12:35 am. Within 5 minutes, the Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Unit, made up of their SWAT team, hostage negotiators, and other support staff arrived on the scene to take over command of the situation from the patrol deputies who had been handling it. The reported continued attempts to contact Swindell over the next seven hours, through telephone, voice command, and loudspeaker, but made no further contact. Meanwhile, the sheriff’s domestic violence detectives requested and received and arrest and search warrant at 1:30 am.
The Press Democrat quoted Deborah Belka, Glenn Swindell’s mother who lives in Washington state, as stating that Swindell called her around 10 pm, and they spoke for over an hour. She said he had told her he was hiding in the attic and feared for his life.
Again according to Tyler Swindell’s posts on the Press Democrat, Swindell’s wife had been asking if this level of action was necessary, and that she only wanted the children with her. He states that the officers from the sheriff’s office even threatened to take her kids away and have her arrested, supposedly for interfering. Tyler also states that he and his brother were never contacted during this situation, and that they could have been on the scene at a moment’s notice to help diffuse the situation.
All indications are that Swindell was a good family man who had become more and more troubled over recent years. Deborah Belka was quoted as saying he was becoming a conspiracy theorist, and harbored a growing fear of the police. After 22 years in the grocery business, she said, he was involved in a car accident, leaving him with severe shoulder pain, and on disability. During his year or more off work, he began following the InfoWars website and theorist/personality Alex Jones. He seemed to have a particular interest in the idea that white contrails from airplanes were not naturally occurring, but chemicals being emitted in a geo-engineering effort by the government, according to posts he made on his Facebook page. Belka also stated that Swindell was not a violent man, but a good outdoorsman who cared about his family.
By 3 am, according to the Sheriff’s office, after having no contact with Swindell for over two hours, they deployed a “flash/bang device”, intended to spur the situation, by either intimidating, or perhaps even wakening a subject who has cut off contact. When that showed no results, they forced open the front door and deployed a robotic device in the house, both to search via camera, and communicate via speaker, urging him to surrender and submit to arrest. Again, no contact was made.
As morning was breaking, the team used tear gas inside to stimulate Swindell to give up, with again no chance in the status, or communication from inside. By 7 am the team entered the home to search for him, also bring a K9 to help locate him. By 7:50 am he was located in the attic access door in the garage. He was found with an apparent self inflicted gunshot wound to his head, the handgun lying next to his body. A paramedic assigned to the team pronounced him dead, thought the exact time was not determined.
Some family members have expressed concern over the methods and tactics of the Sheriff’s department, which they have stated were an overreaction and the ultimate cause of Swindell’s death. Lieutenant Mark Essick stated, however, that once it is determined that an act of domestic violence has occurred, they are obligated by law and policy to arrest the suspect. Since Swindell was known to be armed, according to statements made by his wife, specific protocols had to be followed. He told the Press Democrat “I can understand why they think there’s an overreaction. But when we respond to a call like this, we can’t just send the hostage negotiators without tactical support. And we won’t send just the SWAT team without negotiators. We send everybody on the special operations team.”
Santa Rosa Press Democrat: Family questions deputies’ tactics in Larkfield standoff that ended in suicide