Escondido standoff ends in suicide
By: QUINN EASTMAN - Staff Writer
ESCONDIDO ---- It all started with an argument over a shopping cart.
A nine-hour standoff between Escondido police and an elderly man armed with an AK-47 type of rifle ended just before midnight Monday, when the man shot and killed himself, authorities said.
By Tuesday afternoon, most of the roughly 200 people who had been evacuated during the standoff had returned to their homes in the mostly residential, low-income neighborhood around the Midway Drive apartment complex.
For most of the day, police investigators continued documenting every bullet fired around the now-calm, blue-and-white apartments for senior citizens in eastern Escondido. The quiet scene contrasted sharply with the night before, when dozens of law enforcement officers cordoned off the area, preventing a crowd of at least 100 bystanders from getting into the line of fire.
The San Diego County medical examiner's office identified the dead man Tuesday morning as 75-year-old William G. Sloan. Neighbors said they considered him generally "jovial" and police said he had never been in trouble with the law in San Diego County.
The incident began Monday when police arrived at Escondido Apartments at 500 N. Midway after a 2:35 p.m. call about a disturbance, Escondido police spokesman Lt. David Mankin said.
Witnesses told police that Sloan on Monday afternoon had punched 92-year-old Rose Marsala, a neighbor who lives in the apartment diagonally across from Sloan, in the chest.
Sloan and Marsala had been arguing over the proper storage of a shopping cart that she used to support herself while walking, Mankin said. When Sloan punched Marsala, the woman was prevented from falling to the ground by an employee of the apartment complex who was standing behind her, Mankin said Tuesday. The employee took Marsala to the complex's management office, he added.
Sloan returned to his apartment and fired on two officers who had responded to the disturbance and they returned fire, wounding Sloan, Mankin said. Precisely where Sloan was shot was still under investigation, as well as how many shots were fired. No shots were fired after the initial exchange, Mankin said.
One officer was initially pinned down by the hail of bullets, but eventually was safely extricated from the complex by fellow officers.
SWAT teams surrounded the building and police shut down Midway between East Valley Parkway and Washington Avenue. Some residents of the apartment complex were evacuated in a North County Transit District bus, while dozens of neighbors congregated at a nearby gas station.
About 35 people spent Monday night at the East Valley Community Center on East Valley Parkway, where the American Red Cross provided food and beds, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross said.
As the standoff wore on Monday night, electricity to the second-floor apartment was shut off and floodlights brought in by police illuminated the windows. Sloan changed shirts and was seen walking around inside, Mankin said.
Police negotiators tried for hours to phone Sloan and were able to speak with him Monday night, Mankin said. Sloan seemed to experience "mood swings," in that conversations with him were sometimes relatively calm and sometimes argumentative, he said Tuesday.
Sloan eventually asked to speak with his son, Scott, a Riverside resident, he said. The younger Sloan came to Escondido on Monday night and recorded a plea for his father to surrender peacefully, Mankin said. It is unclear whether the elder Sloan heard the entire message, he said.
A SWAT officer who was looking through the apartment's window saw Sloan shoot himself at roughly 11:45 p.m. A note to family members was discovered in the apartment, but officials declined to disclose its contents.
Eblin Bueno, a 10-year resident of Escondido Apartments, said Tuesday that she was surprised by Sloan's violent behavior Monday and his suicide because it contrasted with his usually friendly manner. The woman said she was frightened during the standoff and went to stay with her brother.
"He was always making jokes at the parties we have at the apartments," she said Tuesday.
Neighbors could tell he had an exercise treadmill, because it made noise that could be heard through the walls, she said.
Sloan had lived at Escondido Apartments ---- federally subsidized housing for senior citizens ---- for about 10 months, said Wendy Tarantino, a representative of the apartments' management company.
Sloan was originally from Massachusetts, and moved to Escondido from St. Louis, she said. One of his fellow residents had known him from St. Louis for more than 20 years and recruited him to live at the apartments in Escondido, she said.
He had at least two children and grandchildren, Tarantino said.
She said neighbors described him as "jovial" and that the Monday standoff was puzzling.
"I don't what made this person snap," she said.
Contact staff writer Quinn Eastman at (760) 740-5412 or firstname.lastname@example.org.