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Suspect Arrested After Standoff in Post Office; 2 Hostages Released

May 29, 2003|From Times Staff Reports

LAKESIDE — A gunman stormed into a post office in this San Diego suburb Wednesday and took two employees hostage, releasing them hours later after intense negotiations with law enforcement officials.

The suspect, identified as Alberto de Santiago, 39, of Ramona apparently had been in a traffic accident with a postal vehicle months ago and was angry about the financial settlement that postal officials offered, said Chris Saunders, spokesman for the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.

Saunders said Santiago carried two rifles into the post office about 3 p.m. and jumped onto a counter. Several workers and customers fled out a side door, but two employees were forced to remain at gunpoint.

Customer Steve Roadinger, 48, said the gunman screamed for everyone to leave. As Roadinger rushed out, he said, "I glanced over my shoulder and looked down the barrel of a rifle."

Within minutes, dozens of deputies, California Highway Patrol officers and federal law enforcement agents descended on the building.

Calling the gunman on his cellular telephone, negotiators began urging him to release his hostages.

When he asked for a Dr Pepper, crisis negotiators offered the soda in exchange for a hostage.

Three and a half hours after he arrived, Santiago surrendered and was arrested.

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