[UPDATE, 6:50 p.m.]: At 6:35 p.m., after about three hours of shutting down one of the main streets in town, the Santa Barbara Police Department’s SWAT team entered the North Milpas Street apartment thought to house a handgun-toting 25-year-old Hispanic female and her two children. But aside from a light haze of smoke left over by a long-hot oven, there was no one to be found inside.
Milpas Street was set to be reopened shortly after 7 p.m., but the search for the woman — who brandished the gun during an argument with a relative earlier today — and her young children continues. Said police spokesperson Riley Harwood, “It’s not over for us.” As to whether the woman should be considered armed and dangerous, Harwood replied, “It’s better to be safe than sorry,” but he did not consider the woman to be a threat to the general public.
The Milpas Street shutdown and resulting media blitz caused quite a stir in the neighborhood, with more than 100 people gathering on the nearby corners to watch and pose for television cameras, including some folks who thought that making loud explosions with water bottles would be a funny way to rile the cops. Neighborhood activist and former city council candidate Sharon Byrne got stuck in the Stereo and Smoke Palace during the ordeal.
[UPDATE, 5:50 p.m.]: Chris Meagher reports that police started evacuating buildings along the block, including Blockbuster, and that bystanders have been made to move further away from the scene. An ambulance also just showed up to the location. The SBPD, Meagher went on, is using a camera attached to the top of a KCOY news van crane to try and get a glimpse inside the apartment.
[UPDATE, 5:27 p.m.]: Police spokesperson Sgt. Riley Harwood just briefed the media, explaining his office received a call at 2:48 p.m. of a 25-year-old Hispanic female inside the residence — 117 North Milpas Street, Unit B — with a gun. He said the incident began as a family argument and that the weapon is likely a handgun.
Police “strongly believe” the woman is still inside, and are “concerned” the woman’s two children — ages 2 and 6 — are in there with her, Harwood said. The SWAT and Crisis Negotiation teams have responded but have been unable to make contact with the woman.
Reporter Chris Meagher said he has seen small amounts of smoke coming from one of the apartment’s windows from time to time.
[ORIGINAL REPORT]: A huge police presence has gathered in the 100 block of North Milpas Street to respond to some kind of immediate threat, the details of which have not been made public.
Authorities have only disclosed that officers are “in the midst of a significant incident” at a second-story residence at 117 North Milpas Street. “The incident began at 2:48 p.m., when a 911 call of an emergency nature was routed to SBPD Dispatch through the CHP Dispatch,” said Lt. Paul McCaffrey in a prepared statement.
Unconfirmed reports suggest a woman has barricaded herself inside the apartment with some sort of automatic weapon. There are reportedly two children inside the residence as well.
Santa Barbara Independent reporter Chris Meagher, on the scene, says Milpas Street is sealed off between Yanonali and Mason streets and that at least 10 police cruisers are on the scene. The SWAT team is getting into position, he said, and the SBPD’s armored vehicle — the Bearcat — is stationed nearby.