A domestic dispute that escalated into a four-hour standoff with police ended Thursday night with the arrest of a 30-year-old man.
Alfie Blundell was booked into Utah County Jail for investigation of aggravated assault, aggravated burglary and criminal mischief. Police say he choked his estranged wife Thursday afternoon, then holed up in her duplex, 374 E. 200 South, and threatened to ignite a propane tank.The county's Special Emergency Response Team apprehended the man about 9 p.m. after firing rounds of tear gas and entering the home.
Thursday's standoff was the latest in an unusual string of domestic-related incidents in Utah County in recent days. Authorities are investigating a number of homicide and murder-suicide cases in recent weeks. Three sets of double-deaths have occurred in the Provo-Orem area since April 26.
The victim in the Lehi case placed an emergency phone call to police at 4:43 p.m. from a Super 8 Motel, 150 S. 850 East, where she is employed, said Lehi Police Chief Karl Zimmerman. The woman, who is separated from the suspect, said he choked her three times at her home, causing her to pass out.
When she awoke, she escaped from the home and went to the motel to notify police. The victim told officers her husband had threatened to blow up the home with a propane tank from a barbecue grill. The couple's infant daughter was staying at the home of the woman's mother.
Sheriff's detectives evacuated numerous homes in the area as a precautionary measure. They barricaded entries to 200 South and attempted to talk to the suspect. Zimmerman later called in the Specialty Emergency Response Team and a canine unit to help contain the situation.
"The big unknown was the propane tank," Zimmerman said. "We knew that it could cause a lot of damage. So we removed several families from all sides of the duplex. We wanted to take every precaution to keep people safe."
Police attempted to communicate with the man, who did not answer repeated phone calls. While members of the emergency response team prepared for instructions, neighbors and curious onlookers gathered to watch the drama unfold.
"It's a pretty quiet neighborhood, normally," said resident Kerry Schwartz. "It's pretty sad."
"This is the most excitement we've had in this happy neighborhood," said Gina Knudson, who lives just down the street from the duplex. "I can't believe this is happening."
By 8 p.m., the Special Emergency Response Team moved in and surrounded the home. The suspect finally answered a call from police and spoke with a negotiator for about 45 minutes.
"It became evident he wasn't going to come out on his own," Zimmerman said. The suspect had demanded to speak with his wife. He also told the negotiator he had opened the valve on the tank. Police shut off the gas and the power to the home.
About 9 p.m., police fired two rounds of tear gas into the home and seconds later sent in a dog, which kept the suspect at bay until officers reached him and removed him from the residence.
In January, a spouse abuse charge was filed against Blundell but was later dismissed. His wife had a protective order against her husband, but it was never served.
Neighbors said they are aware the couple has a history of domestic problems.
Lehi authorities are grateful that the standoff ended without any deaths, unlike what other Utah County police departments have had to deal with in recent weeks.
- On April 26, a Provo couple, Robert Reis, 50, and his wife, Kathy Reis, 47, were found dead inside their home. Though police are still awaiting toxicology reports to determine the cause of death, police believe the deaths might be the result of a murder-suicide or a double-murder.
- A day later, an Orem man, Rex Black, 48, called police saying he shot his son, Toby, 22. He then turned the gun on himself. Police don't know if they will ever know why.
- Provo police are also investigating an apparent murder-suicide that occurred Wednesday. Jorge L. Quirindongo, 40, and his wife, 32-year-old Ivette Quirindongo, were found dead in their apartment from gunshot wounds. Divorce papers signed earlier in the week were found in the kitchen of the residence.
"For some reason, we have all these cases all at once that are usually scattered throughout the year," said Provo Police Capt. Keith Teuscher.