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Standoff in Alhambra


ALHAMBRA (CNS) – A sleeping overnight shift worker’s gun-like cell phone case prompted a scare today at an Alhambra shopping center parking lot.

A shopping center patron who saw the man conked out in his SUV about 12:30 p.m. at the center at Fremont and Commonwealth avenues called authorities thinking he might be the victim of a medical emergency, according to Alhambra police.

When paramedics arrived they saw what looked like a gun in his lap so police and then a sheriff’s SWAT team was summoned, according to Alhambra police Sgt. Jerry Johnson.

People at stores in the shopping center — which includes a Toy ‘R Us, Party City and Albertsons market — were told to shelter in place while officers investigated.

They banged on the SUV’s windows, blared sirens and even blew an air horn to try and wake the dozing man, all to no avail, Johnson said.

Around 2:35 p.m. a sheriff’s Special Enforcement Bureau team got him to wake up and exit the vehicle.

He obeyed commands and was briefly detained and questioned, but once it was determined that he was a graveyard shift worker who stopped at the center to buy something only to fall asleep in his SUV with the gun-like cell phone case in his lap, he was sent on his way.

Johnson said the man’s family was contacted based on the registered owner of the vehicle and told investigators about the man’s job and he that didn’t own a gun, but had a cell phone case that looked like a firearm.

Still, officers remained cautious until the man woke up and exited the vehicle.

“The cell phone case bore a striking resemblance to a real firearm,”Johnson said.

“It looks like it could be a gun, no question about it,” he said.

While the drama played out, people stuck in the shopping center took to social media.

“Some of us are stuck in Party City for safety. We are not allowed to leave,” Paulina Shull wrote on Facebook.

“My sister is stuck inside Albertsons,” Sue Hweamel posted.

Another woman wrote, “Yes, I am now locked in the market and cannot leave until they get the guy with a gun.”