The 39-year-old man who barricaded himself in his Bath Street home Wednesday evening after police tried to arrest him on battery and gun charges surrendered to authorities at around 2:30 a.m. His name has not been released, and officials have offered few details on the incident or the altercation earlier in the day that eventually led to the standoff.
At around 11 p.m. – five hours after the man locked himself inside – members of the Santa Barbara Police Department's SWAT Team fired multiple rounds of tear gas into the suspect's home. They appeared to have little effect, and the suspect remained inside. The decision was made an hour later to enter the home, and upon confronting the man, a SWAT team member shot him with a nonlethal shotgun round. According to police, the suspect — armed with a machete — then retreated into the upstairs area of the residence and again refused to comply with orders to come outside.
After communications with the subject were reestablished — police tossed a “throw phone” up to the man — he surrendered with no further incident. Police spokesperson Sgt. Riley Harwood had explained earlier in the evening that officers received a call at around 11:30 a.m. of an incident involving the subject. He declined to go into detail, but explained officers have had contact with the man in the past. An investigation began at 12:20 p.m., and authorities secured an arrest warrant not long after.
At around 6:15 p.m., the SWAT team, accompanied by crisis negotiation and K9 units, descended on the home and ordered its inhabitants to come outside. The SBPD’s armored vehicle, the Bearcat, was also deployed. Four people emerged, but the suspect refused to comply, said Harwood. Nearby residents were evacuated, and the 800 block of Bath Street was cordoned off. Initial reports indicated the man may have been armed with a gun.
A Bath Street neighbor said the suspect — who was also charged with animal cruelty — owns three dogs, and that as many as 10 people live in the residence, many of them multigenerational family members. Another neighbor claimed the suspect attempted suicide in recent years: that he shot himself under the chin but survived.
[UPDATE, 2:30 p.m.]: Police have identified the Bath Street barricade suspect as Nicola Zeno Mollo Jr. The original assault call, spokesperson Sgt. Riley Harwood said, came after Mollo allegedly kicked a 61-year-old female victim down a flight of concrete stairs at the residence. She suffered multiple injuries in the fall, including a broken ankle. Harwood said the woman had witnessed Mollo repeatedly punching the family’s 4-month-old pit bull puppy and tried to intervene. Mollo became enraged, Harwood said, and responded by pointing a handgun at the woman and threatening to kill her before the assault occurred.
Because Mollo “has a history of violence that includes the use of a firearm and is affiliated with an outlaw motorcycle gang,” Harwood explained, police responded to his residence with its SWAT team and Crisis Negotiation Response Team (CNRT) to serve an arrest warrant. Mollo refused to be taken into custody, Harwood went on, and verbally threatened officers that he was in possession of an AK-47 assault rifle.
When officers eventually made entry into Mollo’s residence, they discovered he had filled the premises with natural gas from the kitchen stove and had left a burning candle nearby, Harwood said. “Investigation later revealed that Mollo brandished the machete at SWAT officers because he wanted to provoke them into shooting and killing him,” he went on. “Investigation further revealed that he filled his residence with gas because he wanted to harm the officers and to set the premises on fire.”
Mollo is being held without bail at Santa Barbara County Jail on charges of assault with a deadly weapon, battery resulting in bodily injury, brandishing a firearm, felon in possession of a firearm, and terrorist threats. Additional charges may be filed.