FREMONT (CBS SF) — A man suspected in the shooting of two Fremont police officers died early Thursday in a raging inferno during a standoff with SWAT officers and two others were in custody, authorities said.
Fremont Police Chief Richard Lucero said 44-year-old San Jose native Gerald Villabrille Jr. died when the home he had barricaded himself in caught fire.
Lucero said Villabrille had a criminal record, but would not talk about those charges. He also did not released the identity of the other two suspects.
Alameda County sheriff’s spokeswoman Geneva Bosques said the suspect was found dead in a closet inside the smoldering remains of the home. A cause of death will be determined by the coroner’s office.
“He was given many opportunities to come out and he refused to do that,” she said.
Alameda County sheriff’s deputies attempts to initially make contact with Villabrille in the home proved to be fruitless so gas canisters were fired into the house in an effort to get him to come out.
Lucero said Villabrille then called 911 and talked with police, telling them he was armed and suicidal. He also told officers he had a hostage, but it was determined he was lying. More canisters were then fired into the home and the fire erupted inside.
While a cause of the fire was under investigation, Bosques said fumes from the gas canisters may have ignited the fire.
Authorities said Villabrille broke into the home, located near where the officers were shot on Wednesday afternoon. Officials said they last made contact with the suspect with a phone call around 3:30 a.m.
After initially attempting to fight the blaze, firefighters backed off and fought it from a distance. SWAT officers surrounded the home and nearby houses were evacuated. Explosions and popping noises were clearly audible as the home burned.
“He told us he had a gun, so we are not in any hurry,” said Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly.
The sheriff’s office was relieved of its duties by the Oakland Police tactical team around 5:00 a.m.
Around 6:45 a.m., the fire started to intensify and firefighters moved closer to fight the blaze. A lockdown in the area was also lifted.
The sheriff’s office first reported Villabrille was located around midnight during an intense manhunt.
Law enforcement officers spent hours searching for multiple suspects, including a gunman.
The incident started with a traffic stop at 1:33 p.m. on Fremont Boulevard near Washington Boulevard.
After the suspects pulled over, the driver backed into a patrol car, and there was an exchange of gunfire, Fremont police spokeswoman Officer Geneva Bosques said.
The first officer was injured in the exchange of gunfire.
Witness Rachel Galarsa told KPIX 5 she saw the incident unfold from the beginning as Villabrille shot the first officer.
“Just freely shoot a cop without any hesitation? That’s kind of scary,” said Galarsa. “He did not hesitate at all.”
The driver pulled forward again, and one or more suspects ran from the traffic stop. Police started searching for them and located one of the suspects about 10 minutes later in the 1300 block of Roberts Avenue.
Police confirmed Villabrille was not alone in the truck when he shot the officer who pulled him over Wednesday, revealing that a man and woman had been taken into custody.
“They were arrested last night and I believe they are in custody at this point,” said Lucero.
The police chief would only say the two suspects were in custody and the truck they were in was stolen.
Gunfire was exchanged again, and a detective was shot multiple times, police said.
Both officers were taken to the hospital, and one of the officers was out of surgery Wednesday night but remained in critical condition.
The Fremont Police Department reported late Wednesday night there were no plans to close any Fremont schools on Thursday.
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