UPDATED: Standoff between suspect and SWAT Team reported at 18th and I streets in Merced

04/04/2013 6:39 PM

04/04/2013 9:39 PM

MERCED — A three-hour standoff between a wanted Merced man came to an end Thursday night when a SWAT team broke the windows of a home and sent in a canine unit.

The Merced County Sheriff’s Department and regional SWAT team surrounded a home in the 100 block of West 18th street, after 35-year-old Mario Tarin Garcia barricaded himself inside.

Garcia had a warrant for escape after he failed to return from a pass granted by a Merced County judge, according to spokesman Deputy Delray Shelton.

Shelton said Garcia is in a post-release program stemming from Assembly Bill 109, the state’s re-alignment law.

“He’s currently under our post-release programs, but the escapee is subsequent of him not returning from a pass and blatantly not adhering to the terms and conditions of the program in which he was granted,” Shelton said.

According to Shelton, Garcia has a violent history of assault with a deadly weapon, resisting officers and fleeing.

The SWAT team surrounded the house around 4:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon and began negotiating with Garcia, who was holed up inside the home’s attic.

There were four other people inside the home, and they surrendered without incident. However, Garcia wouldn’t leave the residence, Shelton said.

“Our hostage negotiation team began to attempt to make contact through a throw phone which we placed inside the residence to give Mr. Garcia the opportunity to communicate with us,” Shelton said.

After Garcia refused to surrender, the SWAT team shot a round of less-than-lethal bean bags into the home, breaking about four windows.

A canine unit was sent into the house and bit Garcia one time on the arm, Shelton said. The injury was non-life threatening, and Garcia was not hit by the bean bags, he said.

During the standoff, Garcia’s girlfriend, Susie Bermejo, 30, ran through the police tape and charged toward the home.

She was arrested by deputies and will be facing obstruction and resisting charges, Shelton said.

Another man, Robert Burgess, 23, was also arrested for a warrant during Thursday’s incident. Officials said he was the boyfriend of a tenant that lived at the home.

Shelton said it’s unclear why Garcia was granted the pass by a judge, but they’re typically granted for family funerals, medical issues or other personal business.

“Even though these people are out of our jail facilities, they are still monitored by a bracelet,” Shelton added. “So any time the bracelet is cut off and they flee, and they don’t adhere to the terms of the program, we consider them as escapees.”

Shelton said Thursday’s incident is an example of the Sheriff’s Department cracking down on monitoring individuals in AB 109 post-release programs.

“Sheriff Pazin is taking a firm stance on monitoring these people and we will exhaust all measures, including our SWAT team, to apprehend them when they escape.” Shelton said.

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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