" The Subject was calling from Johnny's Lock and Safe on Mangrove, he told the dispatcher that he had a couple of weapons and he intended to shoot anyone that tried to come in", said sergeant Rob Merrifield from the Chico Police. That was the terrifying threat from Johnny's Lock And Safe owner Michael Tomlinson that started a five hour standoff between the Chico business owner and Chico Police Sunday evening. Tomlinson was reportedly wearing a bullet proof vest and told police he also had explosives inside the building. " Initially it appeared to be a suicide by cop type scenario, the subject wanted an officer to shoot him", explained Merrifield.
Police officers, SWAT officers and the hostage negotiation team from Chico Police Department along with Butte County Sheriff Deputies were on scene for several hours with guns drawn. Streets were shut down and businesses evacuated on Mangrove between West 1st and West 5th streets. " It was crazy, I was coming out of Bidwell Perk and I tried to head around it all and then the cops started coming in", said Chico resident Maria Steffy.
Attempts to negotiate with Tomlinson were unsuccessful. Shortly after 10 p.m the SWAT team fired tear gas into the building and forced Tomlinson out. Tomlinson's weapon was recovered, but it was not what police were expecting. " The weapon we recovered actually turned out to be a realistic looking airsoft gun", said Merrifield.
Tomlinson was the only one inside and was taken to Enloe Medical Center where he has been placed on a mental health hold. Police are relieved it ended the way it did. " It certainly could have turned out a lot worse", said Merrifield.
We have been able to learn from close friends that Tomlinson's wife recently passed away after battling cancer. Ironically, the standoff occurred just one day after Tomlinson volunteered at the Guns & Hoses fundraiser, a charity event that pitted the members of the SWAT team against local firefighters. Police also say Tomlinson was intoxicated during the standoff.