Authorities believe marital distress led Norris Proctor to threaten his children and himself Friday morning in a 90-minute standoff that ended peacefully after he surrendered.
Salt Lake County Sheriff's Sgt. Lloyd Prescott said Proctor, 28, and his wife, 25, had been "prying on each other" most of the morning. When she threatened to leave him, he threatened to kill two of their children.Sheriff's officials, however, don't believe the children were ever in any danger.
The wife left the home on 9150 West and called the sheriff's office. Plainclothes officers surrounded the house, evacuating neighbors and the day-care center and preschool at the Magna Recreation Center across the street. A sniper was called in along with an officer with tear-gas grenades.
Sheriff Pete Hayward, who had been patrolling in his office's new helicopter, was flown to the situation, where he attempted to negotiate with Proctor.
About 10:45 a.m., Proctor, who was holding a gun to his head, exited the home and released the children, two girls, ages 4 and 8, who ran down the street screaming. Proctor returned to the home and requested a marriage counselor.
Minutes before the suspect released his children, officers led 40 children, crawling, from the recreation center's backdoor into a waiting bus. Staff members told the center's children, mainly preschoolers, that they were playing a game and going to the Magna Park, where they waited until the drama ended.
"We wanted to make sure they'd stay calm. They are only 3- and 4-year-olds, so they didn't know what was going on," center director Michele Nekota said.
As a precaution, two nearby elementary schools, Magna and Webster, were told to lock their doors.
Hayward then was able to make phone contact with the suspect and negotiated a surrender. About 11:15 a.m., Proctor exited, apparently unarmed and walked toward Hayward, who gestured for him to put his hands up.
But Proctor became frightened and returned inside. About 10 minutes later, after officers surrounding the home negotiated further, Proctor exited again, this time with his hands up. Hayward met him on the sidewalk, shook his hand and put his arm around his shoulder.
"The sheriff has a way of doing these things," Prescott marveled.
Hayward and Prescott were joined shortly by Proctor's wife and a friend. They all then walked down the street and got into a patrol car.
Prescott said there were no plans to arrest Proctor because he made no real threats toward anyone other than himself.
"We just feel that rather than bringing down the long arm of the law, we'd get him some help."
Officers secured the house immediately after the surrender and found handguns, shotguns, high-powered rifles and a large quantity of ammunition, Prescott said.
"We feel fortunate in (the peaceful conclusion) because it could have turned deadly."