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Suspect's Arrest Ends Siege at Bowling Alley

August 03, 1998|DAVID REYES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A man being chased by police after a robbery Sunday afternoon burst into a bowling alley and startled about 20 people who ran outside for safety.

No one was injured at the Kona Lanes on Harbor Boulevard in Costa Mesa, officials said.

After about a two-hour standoff, police arrested Eric Jack Haley, 26, of Las Vegas on suspicion of armed robbery, Costa Mesa Police Sgt. Ken Lovelady said.

"At the time, about 20 customers and employees were inside the bowling alley," Lovelady said. "Police immediately telephoned the bowling alley and asked them all to leave."

Haley allegedly held up the Coco's restaurant at 2750 Harbor Blvd. with a gun that looked like a .45-caliber semiautomatic, Lovelady said.

The robber took about $1,600 from the restaurant's cash register and fled on foot.

Police later recovered both the cash and a pellet gun similar in shape and size to a semiautomatic, Lovelady said.

Police were notified of the robbery about 1:55 p.m. and while responding saw a gunman running from the restaurant toward the Mesa Verde shopping center, which includes a drugstore, ice rink, cinema and grocery store, in addition to the bowling alley.

"As police tried to confront the suspect, he ran into Kona Lanes bowling alley," Lovelady said.

Police called in SWAT officers, who arrived 45 minutes later.

Dozens of spectators witnessed the operation as numerous police cruisers, a large mobile command post and a police helicopter converged on the scene.

Mike Dixon, 41, of Costa Mesa and his daughter, Cara, 15, were running an errand when they saw police surround the bowling alley. When they returned from the errand, the pair decided to park and watch the drama.

"It's always a little unnerving when you see a bunch of cops with their guns drawn in your neighborhood," Dixon said.

Lovelady said SWAT members and other police officers set up a perimeter around the bowling alley to prevent the gunman's escape. A helicopter and a Costa Mesa firetruck with a long ladder extended above the roof of a nearby grocery store helped police observe the bowling alley.

After talking with a SWAT officer, the suspect, who wore a gray T-shirt and black shorts and carried a small shoulder bag, walked out through a side door with his hands up.

He was immediately handcuffed, put in a police car and driven away.

Haley also was arrested on a $160,000 warrant stemming from a Las Vegas robbery, Lovelady said. He was taken to Costa Mesa City Jail.

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