Paul Wellman

Santa Barbara police held a man brandishing a replica firearm at bay in front of a downtown supermarket for more than an hour on Friday evening before disabling him with non-lethal force.

Authorities originally responded to a call at 5:25 p.m. regarding a suicidal individual behind the Ralphs supermarket at 100 W. Carrillo St. When the responding officer arrived, a man in the front of the store – later identified as Ralph Providence, 58 – pulled what appeared to be a handgun out and raised it above his head. Sgt. Mike McGrew, who was second to respond to the scene, said that Providence did not aim his weapon at the officers who had originally responded. “If he would have lowered it at me, I would have had to fire,” McGrew said.

Police try to get the suspect to drop his gun
Paul Wellman

The two officers, standing about 20 feet away from the gunman with their weapons drawn, then spoke with Providence. They then called for backup, which included members of a SWAT team and a Crisis Negotiation Response Team. Officers held the man at bay in an alcove beside the main store entrance and eventually determined that Providence was holding a replica, airsoft-type gun, according to McGrew. Officers then switched to using non-lethal beanbag shotguns.

Meanwhile, inside the building, customers and Ralphs employees were led to the back of the supermarket, where they were released and told to wait across the street. Store managers secured the doors, while police cordoned off the parking lot and evacuated the MTD Transit Center, blocking off traffic on both De La Vina and Chapala Streets between Carrillo and Figueroa.

Four distant, progressive images of the second non-lethal round that takes the suspect down.
Paul Wellman

At 6:45 p.m., two beanbag shots were fired by an officer, which took down Providence. He was transported, via ambulance, to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. At press time, Providence was in police custody in the Cottage Emergency Department, but staff had not decided whether or not to admit him. McGrew said Providence would be given a mental health evaluation, then booked for brandishing a replica firearm – which is considered a misdemeanor.


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