WEST VALLEY CITY — A gunman fleeing from police was arrested early Saturday after he allegedly shot out the sliding glass door of a random home to gain entrance, then held a 99-year-old woman hostage.
The woman suffered some bruises during the frightening ordeal, but family members say she held her own — at one point warning the intruder to stop messing up her clean house — before he eventually agreed to let her go.
Freddy Alexander Velasquez, 18, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail. Police had been looking for him since late November, when court records indicate he escaped from a Weber County Jail work crew.
The incident first began about 8 p.m. Friday when a shooting was reported at a Magna house near 2600 S. Melville Ave. (8040 West). No one was injured in the shooting. Police identified the suspected gunman and tracked him to the Sleep Inn hotel, 3440 S. Decker Lake Dr. (2150 West) in West Valley City, said Unified Police Lt. Brian Lohrke.
“When detectives were trying to make contact with him, he got out of the car, produced a handgun and put it to his head," Lohrke said. The detectives backed off and tried talking to him when the man suddenly fled into a nearby residential neighborhood.
Police say he ignored commands to stop and drop the gun, instead jumping a fence and running across 3500 South.
Once he got behind a home near 3500 South and 2200 West, the man shot out a sliding glass door so he could break into the residence, a Salt Lake County Jail report states.
Jim Gabbard said that's when his fiancee shook him awake to tell him someone was inside the house. He said he ran toward the kitchen, opened the door and was met with a gun pointed at his face.
"He said, 'Give me your car keys or I'm going to kill you,'" Gabbard recalled, explaining that he could see flashlights and police lights from officers in the front and back of the house.
He said he and his fiancee, CJ Montoya, tried to get away from the gunman and were pulled outside by police once they were able to move toward a door.
But Montoya's 99-year-old grandma, who Lohrke said "was not very mobile,” was still inside the home.
“He (Velasquez) stayed inside the home. We considered it a hostage situation at that point,” Lohrke said.
Montoya said she wanted to go back inside and get her grandmother, Doris Wasden, but police wouldn't let her for fear of her safety.
Wasden was scared, the couple said, when the gunman forcefully pulled her out of bed and acted aggressively toward her. But later, the elderly woman apparently had other things on her mind while police say the man was looking throughout the home for car keys.
"He was rifling through the drawers, making a mess, spilling things all over," Gabbard said. "She has her 100th birthday party one week from today, and her words to him were, 'I just had this house cleaned for my party and you are messing it up. You better knock it off!'"
The couple said the grandmother built a rapport with the intruder and SWAT teams from the West Valley and Unified police departments were also negotiating with him. The gunman eventually agreed to release Wasden about 3:30 a.m.
"Grandma is just the toughest person," Gabbard said, fighting back tears. "She's just fine, she says. She's just fine. It's over. Everybody's OK and it's over and she just wants to come home."
The SWAT teams continued to negotiate with the barricaded man, who apparently kept saying he would come out. Velasquez eventually found the car keys, then went into the attached garage about 5:20 a.m. and started the vehicle, police said.
"(He) attempted to back out of the garage, stealing the vehicle, when he was stopped by multiple SWAT officers who were on scene," the report states.
Velasquez was booked into jail for investigation of aggravated assault, aggravated burglary, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, felony discharge of a firearm, possession of a firearm by a restricted person and other potential charges.
Police say Velasquez had warrants out for his arrest. "Freddy was wanted and knew he was wanted and stated he did not want to come back to prison," according to the report.
A magistrate ordered Saturday that he be held without bail.
“When we have something that starts out so violent, so scary, to have everyone walk away from this situation, including the innocent people inside the house, our police officers and the suspect … is how we like these to end,” Lohrke said.
In September, Velasquez pleaded guilty in adult court to assault by a prisoner, a second-degree felony, after he attacked a fellow inmate at the Mill Creek Youth Detention Center in Ogden. Surveillance video shows Velasquez attacking a boy with what looked like a phone book before two others attacked the same boy with other objects, according to charging documents.3 comments on this story
"Even when efforts to stop the incident were exhausted, Freddy and the two other minor prisoners all continued to engage in assaulting (the victim) and other prisoners," according to the charges, which include a gang enhancement.
A judge ordered Velasquez to serve 240 days in jail, but he walked away from a Weber County Jail community service crew on Nov. 28, according to court records. An arrest warrant was issued and he was later charged with escape from custody, a third-degree felony.
What crime Velasquez had been serving time for in juvenile detention was unknown Saturday.
Contributing: Ashton Goodell, Marc Giauque