San Luis Obispo Police Department (SLOPD) and regional SWAT officers arrested Austin Ross, who barricaded himself in a house near campus Wednesday afternoon, ending a standoff that lasted several hours.
According to SLOPD Capt. Chris Staley, the situation started when the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Gang Task Force arrived at the Stenner Street apartment where they had identified the suspect was staying. They had an arrest warrant on charges of vehicle theft, firearm theft and evading arrest. SLOPD Lt. Jeff Smith told the San Luis Obispo Tribune the warrant was issued from Pismo Beach.
“When they arrived at the scene, he fled back into the apartment and refused to come out, so they requested (SLOPD’s) assistance,” Staley said.
SLOPD and regional SWAT officials arrived armed in case Ross was a threat.
“He’s been known to be armed and dangerous in the past, and was recently in a stolen car and threw a gun out of the car, so we know that he’s prone to weapons and associated with a lot of people using narcotics and guns,” Staley said. “So (the Gang Task Force) asked for the team to come out and actually serve the warrant, instead of them trying to go inside the house themselves.”
Ross’ retreat into the apartment led to an approximately two-hour standoff, and officials blocked off the street with caution tape. Officials surrounded the apartment, and residents of surrounding homes watched from behind the tape.
Environmental engineering junior Laura Nielsen lives across the street from the apartment, and said snipers entered her home.
“They didn’t tell us anything,” Nielsen said. “He just asked if he could use our house to set up.”
A SWAT vehicle arrived at the scene, pulling into the barricaded apartment’s driveway.
After officials attempted to coax Ross out of the apartment for several hours — calling him by name and asking that he surrender — a masked face appeared at the window of the upstairs apartment.
“We went to make contact through an armed vehicle and he initially didn’t respond,” Staley said. “He finally responded to the window and then surrendered himself.”
Ross then came onto the outside balcony, still masked, with his hands raised in the air. Staley said after surrendering, Ross complied with officials, walking backwards down the stairs toward the SWAT vehicle.
Once Ross reached the SWAT vehicle in the driveway, officials took him into custody, removing his mask and holding him on the ground as they arrested him. A Sheriff’s vehicle arrived to remove him from the scene.
By the end of the ordeal, a number of college-aged observers had gathered outside the scene, despite the fact that Cal Poly sent out an alert asking students to avoid the 100 block of Stenner Street.
Agricultural systems management senior Ian Hare, who lives across the street from the apartment where Ross was found and whose front yard was filled with bystanders, said the atmosphere there was one of suspense.
“Everyone was kind of anxious, I guess, to see what was happening,” Hare said. “And then when he came out of the window, (people were) scared, because no one knew what was going to happen.”
Nielsen said the SWAT snipers who entered her house left quickly.
“They just said, ‘Thank you,’ and they started taking the tape down,” Nielsen said.
Ross is not a resident of the apartment where he was found, but the authorities were aware he was staying there.
“We do believe that it was a girl — it was maybe his girlfriend, I’m not sure what their relationship is — but he was known to be staying with a female here, and we identified him at that apartment,” Staley said.
Ross was previously arrested in Grover Beach this past April, according to theTribune, after Grover Beach police said they found him with approximately 83 grams of methamphetamine, as well as a small amount of hashish and additional drug paraphernalia.
“He’ll go to jail today,” Staley said. “And he’ll have to obviously go to court on all the charges.”