Standoff delays San Diego flights; armed man surrenders
ELLIOT SPAGAT & JULIE WATSON
Nov. 05, 2015
SAN DIEGO (AP) — An armed man who allegedly opened fire on police and then held them at bay in a standoff that interrupted air traffic at the San Diego airport is in custody, authorities said.
Police said the gunman's bullets narrowly missed an officer but that no injuries were reported.
The suspect, armed with a high-powered rifle, shot numerous rounds from his ex-girlfriend's apartment complex near San Diego International Airport Wednesday, prompting the Federal Aviation Administration to halt incoming flights for several hours as a precaution.
The standoff lasted more than five hours. Titus Colbert, 33, walked out of the complex after tossing "multiple weapons" out an apartment window, San Diego Police Lt. Scott Wahl said. Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said authorities recovered an "AK-47-type" assault weapon and a handgun.
Colbert's ex-girlfriend called police shortly after 9 a.m. to report that she feared the Las Vegas man was inside her apartment, Zimmerman said. The ex-girlfriend was outside the apartment when police arrived.
Officers saw a broken sliding glass door, according to a police statement.
Officers entered the apartment after no one responded to knocks. As they checked inside, someone fired several shots at them through a partially closed door.
The shots came "within inches" of police, who returned fire as they retreated, Wahl said.
Police quickly established communication with Colbert. But as they evacuated neighboring homes and established a perimeter in the trendy Bankers Hill neighborhood near downtown, Colbert fired additional shots from a balcony. About a dozen officers were seen running down the street, several with rifles drawn and stopping to aim.
Wahl said at one point the gunman was "shooting in all different directions."
Colbert was taken into custody around 2:30 p.m. — hours after officers swarmed the area. Zimmerman, who didn't know a motive, said he would be booked on charges of "attempted murder of several police officers."
No phone numbers were listed for Colbert, and it was unclear if he has an attorney.
The apartment building is under the airport's approach path, and planes swoop low near the neighborhood before landing.
Planes were allowed to depart from the airport, but many departures were affected because of the lack of incoming flights. In the end, about 30 arriving and departing flights were cancelled and another 30 or so were diverted to other airports, said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor.
Authorities asked people in the area to stay inside and keep away from windows as they surrounded the building. Schools in the area were placed on lockdown.
Tom Neu, who lives next door to the rooftop apartment, said he was working at home on his computer when he heard a bang. He went to his balcony, saw a hole in the stucco wall that separates the two apartments, and called 911.
For about 40 minutes, he cowered in his bathtub, talking to friends and co-workers on his cellphone. He said it was terrifying.
"You're thinking, 'I might get shot and killed in my own bathtub,'" he said.
Neu heard numerous loud booming before a SWAT team came to his unit. Police gave him instructions over the phone on where to walk inside the apartment, and rescuers led him downstairs.
Erik Carstensen was on a Southwest flight from Chicago that was diverted to an airport outside Los Angeles. Passengers were told there was a security problem at the airport, but people on the Internet soon spread the news of the gunman. Carstensen said his wife was at the airport at the time.
"I was a little worried for her until I learned he was not at the airport," he said. "But it's worrisome, the whole thing."
This story has been corrected to show the suspect does not live at the apartment complex.