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Toddler Rescued, Suspect Shot To Death After 56-hour Standoff

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A 16-month-old boy was rescued and a man accused of holding the tot hostage in a Sacramento apartment since Wednesday was shot to death Friday evening to end a drama that gripped the attention of the capital region.

The toddler was taken to UC Davis Medical Center, but Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness said the child appeared uninjured. The boy was later released from the hospital.



Shortly after 7 p.m., a SWAT team blew a hole in a wall and swarmed in through windows to confront 26-year-old suspect Anthony Alvarez, who family members said was mentally ill. McGinness said SWAT members and Alvarez fired shots. The sheriff said Alvarez was "in close proximity" to the toddler inside of the apartment when police burst in.

The standoff, which lasted about 56 hours and is considered to one of the longest in modern local history, led to many evacuations and shut down a busy stretch of Arden Way from Bell Street to Fulton Avenue. Alvarez had been holed up at his cousin's first-floor apartment at the Arden Towne complex, located near the intersection of Arden Way and Wright Street.

McGinness lauded the SWAT officers who carried out the dangerous rescue of little Michael Pittman Jr. The tot is Alvarez's cousin.

"These are very brave, very highly trained, skilled people who went into a situation knowing exactly what the risks were," McGinness said. "But they were willing to take those risks in the interest of preserving not only the welfare of that child, but this entire community, and they did exactly what was expected of them very, very effectively."

Alvarez, who family members said suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, appeared to be playing an intentional game of cat-and-mouse with hostage negotiators, McGinness said Friday afternoon. Alvarez was sought by police on Wednesday on suspicion of attempted murder and robberies carried out in the Bay Area. He was stopped June 4 in Concord, where authorities said he shot at police and fled. Alvarez was also sought by Bay Area police in connection with a homicide case.

Over the course of the standoff, police and Alvarez fired several shots.

Authorities said prior to the rescue, Alvarez was hiding in an area of the apartment where police could not see him. Officials said he apparently lied Thursday about suffering a gunshot wound from a sniper.

McGinness said Friday afternoon that deputies were prepared to wait as long as it took to preserve the safety of the boy.

"Time is on our side," McGinness told reporters shortly after 1 p.m.

Dozens of nearby residents were evacuated during the standoff. A Red Cross shelter was moved Friday to El Camino High School, where 30 to 50 people were expected to stay overnight before the standoff ended.

On Friday afternoon, a robot attempted to deliver a bag of water and food to Alvarez at the apartment. McGinness said Friday night that Alvarez would not accept the food, but the bag was successfully dropped into the apartment.

Shortly before 7 a.m. Friday, Alvarez apparently fired about five shots at a robot sent in by hostage negotiators, authorities said. It also appeared Alvarez fired one shot at a robot at about 5:30 a.m., while sheriff's deputies also fired at least twice.

Sheriff's Sgt. Tim Curran said early Friday that negotiators had developed a "productive" dialogue with Alvarez, communicating with him by cell phone several times Friday.

"I don't think he's made any demands this whole time," Curran said early in the day.

Some members of Alvarez's family, visibly exhausted by the ordeal, slept Friday morning in a car across the street from the complex.

Deputies kept tabs on Alvarez's movements inside the apartment with the use of two robots equipped with mirrors. Heavily armed sheriff's and police SWAT teams took shifts at the scene.

At one point, negotiators tried to hand Alvarez a cell phone using a long pole. He threw the phone out and began firing. Deputies did not return fire at that point because they could not see him clearly.

Late Thursday, officers also used a special sound-emitted device in an effort to distract Alvarez.

Patrick Tobin, a cousin of the suspect, said Thursday that Alvarez was just being stubborn. "Even if I told him to give it up, he would not listen to me," Tobin said.

Also on Thursday, a woman seeking to defuse the hostage situation by reading a poem was detained after she was found crawling on the roof of the complex where the standoff is taking place, Curran said. The woman, whose name was not released, was detained by the California Highway Patrol, Curran said. She told authorities she was motivated to act after watching television coverage of the standoff, Curran said.

Much earlier in the standoff, Alvarez shot at officers as they broke a window.

"We tried to rip down the blinds, but as soon as we breached the window, the suspect fired at our officers," Curran said early Thursday. "At that point, we returned fire and then retreated."

Tessa Alvarez, the gunman's sister, said she offered to go inside the apartment to get her brother to surrender, but she said police declined for safety reasons. She said her brother was known to suffer from mental illness.

"Bipolar runs in our family, I think, and, you know, he takes anti-psychotic pills to make sure he doesn't hear voices or anything, and he hasn't been taking his pills," she said.


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