Blythe law enforcement responded to a hostage situation on the east side of town on Dec. 13, 2012.
The victims of a break-in and the man who became a hostage.
Special to the Times
Benjamin Gallegos, 30, of Blythe, will face numerous charges after his arrest last Thursday at the conclusion of a hostage situation that attracted law enforcement agencies from across the valley.
A string of incidents began the morning of Dec. 13. at about 8:24 a.m., when the Blythe Police Department responded to the Baldwin Senior Apartments in the 1400 block of E. Barnard in reference to a report of a fire in the apartment and an unknown person in the apartment armed with a gun.
Officers arrived on scene along with units from the Blythe Fire Department and were told that an unknown man, later identified as Gallegos, had entered the apartment, armed with a shotgun, and confronted the resident. Gallegos then went to the kitchen where he began lighting paper towels on fire. While he was distracted, the resident was able to leave the apartment and go to a neighbor's apartment to report the incident.
Flames were visible inside the apartment and Gallegos was believed to be inside. Officers and deputies from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department established a perimeter around the apartment and provided close support for firefighters as they knocked down the fire. Officers then entered the apartment but did not locate Gallegos.
As officers were searching, a man ran up reporting that Gallegos, armed with a gun, was in his mother's apartment located three buildings to the south of where the fire happened.
Officers responded to the location and contacted a woman who reported that Gallegos had entered her apartment, and accosted her with a gun. Gallegos began searching through her possessions in the apartment and when her son arrived and opened the door of the residence, Gallegos pointed a handgun at him. The son was able to slam the security screen closed and fled the area to get help. Gallegos opened the door to look outside but the victim was able to exit the apartment and contact the approaching officers.
Since the victim had not seen Gallegos leave the apartment, Blythe Police officers and Sheriff deputies entered the apartment searching for him, however, it was determined that Gallegos had already fled the apartment and took property from the apartment with him. This property was later recovered from the adjacent apartment complex where it appears the suspect had thrown it while fleeing.
While still searching the second apartment, a green Chevrolet Monte Carlo attempted to leave the apartment complex. As it approached the area where emergency vehicles were parked in the driveway still working the initial fire, the driver accelerated rapidly and drove through the vehicles and firefighters in the area, striking a fire truck and two firefighters who suffered minor injuries and were treated and released at the hospital.
It was later learned that Gallegos, after fleeing the second apartment, had entered a third apartment two buildings south of the second and accosted the female resident with a shotgun. Gallegos had forced the resident through various room of the residence, demanding money and taking the keys to the victim's green Monte Carlo. Gallegos then wrapped the shotgun in wrapping paper from the victim's apartment and made her carry the weapon out to her vehicle. Gallegos then left in the stolen vehicle toward the main exit of the complex.
As Gallegos drove through the fire scene, the initial victim was outside speaking with officers and identified the driver of the vehicle, who officers recognized as Gallegos, as the same subject who had entered his apartment and started the fire inside.
After driving through the emergency vehicles, Gallegos drove west on Barnard and then turned south on Acacia. He pulled into a trailer park in the 100 block of Acacia and exited the vehicle while it was still moving. The vehicle continued eastbound and came to rest after striking a trailer in the park.
Gallegos fled west bound across an empty P.V.I.D. canal and over a wall onto the church property in the 100 block of N. Ninth Street. As officers converged on the area, Gallegos crossed a fence into an apartment complex in the 200 block of N. Ninth Street where he smashed a glass door and confronted the residents there. A woman in the apartment grabbed a minor child and was able to escape out the front door while an adult male in the apartment was taken hostage by Gallegos and moved to a rear bedroom. Gallegos then began barricading the bedroom.
At various times Gallegos would talk to officers through a bedroom window and could could be seen holding a handgun to the victims head while using the victim as a shield.
Tenants from adjacent apartments were evacuated and a perimeter was set up with the assistance of Riverside County Sheriff deputies, agents from the U.S. Border Patrol and officers of the California Highway Patrol. Additional units from the Blythe Fire Department, River Medical and Riverside County Probation were staged in the area to assist. The assistance of the California Department of Corrections Special Response Team was requested and they responded as well.
Officers continued to communicate with Gallegos and were finally able to convince him to turn over the shotgun in return for a bottle of water and some cigarettes.
Officers and negotiators continued to speak with Gallegos and played a recorded message from Gallegos' father asking him to give up. Gallegos finally surrendered the handgun to officers through a window then exited through the window and was taken into custody at about 1:20 p.m. The hostage was removed to safety and suffered no physical injuries.
During the incidents, Gallegos had received several cuts on his legs, possibly from broken glass. He was transported to Palo Verde Hospital where he was treated.
Gallegos was later booked at the Blythe Jail on multiple charges, including burglary, arson, robbery, auto theft, assault with a deadly weapon, felon in possession of a firearm, and numerous other charges.
"I am very thankful that no one was injured seriously in this incident," said Blythe Police Chief Steve Smith. "I am also grateful for the assisting agencies - without their help it would have been a much more difficult task. We are fortunate to have these agencies ready and willing to assist at a moments notice. I want to publicly thank each of them."
Anyone with information regarding this case is urged to contact the Blythe Police Department at 922-6111 or they can give their information anonymously by calling Crime Stop at 921-CARE (2273) or by email at email@example.com .
Posted: Sunday, December 16, 2012
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Posted: Sunday, December 16, 2012
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