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Victims recount harrowing hostage standoff

For 40 minutes a 20-year-old woman huddled in her bedroom and wondered if she would ever make it out alive as a hostage situation unfurled on the other side of the door in her Turlock home.

On Feb. 12, a call to the Turlock Police Department that initially was reported as a verbal disturbance became a hostage standoff at a home in the 1700 block of Elmcrest Court that ended nearly nine hours after the initial 911 call with the suspect in custody and two people hospitalized with injuries sustained during the ordeal. Two women in the home — a 20-year-old and a 23-year-old — who were able to lock themselves in a bedroom and eventually escape out a window, recounted their experience to the Journal.

The 20-year-old woman told the Journal that the suspect, Gerardo Partida, 26, of Turlock had been acting erratic and hostile in the days leading up to the incident. At one point, she said he became paranoid about the Ring camera and detached it from the house and then attempted to destroy it by putting it in the toilet and urinating on it.

The situation worsened on Feb. 12 to the point that Partida exploded in anger at the two women, and they, fearing for their lives, took refuge by locking themselves in the bedroom and calling the Turlock Police Department.

The 911 call came in at 7:46 p.m. and was placed by the 20-year-old woman. She said she told the dispatcher that Partida was making threats outside her door. She said he was known to have a gun but didn’t know if he was currently armed. She said he had an 8-inch kitchen knife and had told the two women that he was high on methamphetamine, fentanyl and marijuana. She said the call lasted about five minutes, which the call log confirms. According to her, she was told by the dispatcher that an officer would call her back and then the call ended.

At 8:26 p.m. the women were contacted by a Turlock Police Officer who was at the scene and was apprised that Partida was outside the bedroom door threatening to kill them. That call lasted about eight minutes.

“Why did it take so long for someone to call back?’ the 20-year-old asked. “I believed I could have died during that time.”

The 911 call report indicates that the last bit of information relayed to the dispatcher in the first 911 call was that the women had heard a door slam and could not hear Partida.

The next call came in at 9:34 p.m. and lasted about 59 minutes, eventually ending when the two women crawled out the window to safety. There are differing accounts about their escape. The women said they were the ones that wanted to climb out the window but that they were told not to by officers. The police department said they asked the women several times to crawl out the window but that they were fearful that Partida would hear the bed being moved and try to force his way into the room.

Lt. Dave Hall, the commander of the Critical Response Team, said the two women had developed a trust with the initial officer on the scene and that he was the one on the phone with them trying to convince them to come out of the home via the bedroom window. Hall said two hostage negotiators were assisting the officer with the call.

The women said they told dispatch in the initial 911 call that there were two other people in the home, Partida’s 78-year-old grandmother and his 46-year-old uncle. The call report states the police were told that there were three people in the home — the two women and the grandmother.

From the onset, it was unclear to the police department if the grandmother and the uncle were being held hostage or if they were just in the home.

The two women told the police that they did not believe Partida would hurt the pair, especially his grandmother.

The grandmother was scheduled to be at Foster Farms, her place of employment around 11:30 p.m.  She has a friend who picks her up routinely at 11:15 p.m. and the women both said that she never misses work. So, when the friend arrived at the home but the grandmother didn’t come out, they began to worry.

“She always goes to work,” the 20-year-old said. “When she didn’t come out, we knew that he was holding them inside the house.”

“We thought that would be a good barometer for us as to whether or not there was something going on in the house that would be of concern,” said Turlock Police Lt. Michael Stapler. “The grandmother did not come out of the house, which the two women did say was unusual. She typically does go to work and so at that point we realized, ‘okay, are they being held against their will? Or are they just sheltering in place with the suspect? At that point we didn’t know what we had other than something deviated from the norm.”

All this time the police department had been trying to talk to Partida in any form possible. He was not answering his cell phone, the grandmother did not have one, nor was there a landline and the calls to the uncle went unanswered. Officers tried to reach Partida through the public address system and were also unsuccessful.

The police department utilized a drone to get a better view of the entire home and at one point tossed in a phone with audio and visual capabilities with the hope of talking to Partida and learning what was happening in the house. No one was ever seen on the camera and nothing was ever heard.

“We needed to continue to find a way to speak with the people in the house but at that point we had exhausted the resources patrol had available,” Stapler said. “That is when the decision was made to call out our Critical Response Team.”

The Critical Response Team has two components — the Special Weapons and Tactics team and the Hostage Negotiations team.

It was still unknown if the grandmother and uncle were in any sort of danger. Hall said both women told the CRT team that Partida was not likely to harm his grandmother and uncle.

“We’re not thinking at this point that there’s any threat to grandmother or uncle,” Hall said.

“You never want to force somebody’s hand,” said Turlock Police Chief Jason Hedden. “You don’t want to make the situation worse and escalate things to where we are forcing a reaction.”

As CRT was trying to get a clear idea of what was happening in the house, the decision was made to obtain a search warrant for the home and Detective Frank Navarro was called out to author it. Once the search warrant was obtained, the police department entered the home and cleared every room, until reaching Partida’s locked bedroom door.

“Upon initial entry we have no contact with anybody,” Hall said. He also said the team leader reported that there were no signs of any violence that had happened in the home.

Partida had at some point moved his grandmother and his uncle into his bedroom, which was one of two rooms that had been built in the garage. He locked them in the room with him.

Navarro was called in to speak with Partida and try to obtain the status of the grandmother and the uncle.

“I tried for about an hour and 30 minutes to get them out of there,” Navarro said. “He [Partida] wasn’t making sense at all. The grandmother kept telling me the whole time that she was fine. She was saying ‘come back tomorrow’ and there was no need for an ambulance because no one was injured.”

As the conversation continued, Navarro asked the uncle how he was doing and heard Partida tell him not to answer.

“That was the trigger to say that’s enough,” Hall said. “We’re going in there and we’re going to go get them and take care of business and make sure that they are safe.”

S.W.A.T. team members forced entry into the bedroom and rescued both family members from Partida’s control.

Both the uncle and the grandmother had sustained injuries during the ordeal. They told the investigators that Partida attacked the grandmother around 11:30 p.m. The family said he hit her with a bottle, stabbed her in the forehead with an 8-inch kitchen knife, tried to gouge out her eyes and tried to force pills and alcohol down her throat. The uncle was injured when he tried to come to the aid of his mother, sustained injuries to his hands and head. The grandmother and uncle were taken to area hospitals and both are expected to make a full recovery.

“When we went into that room, there was blood everywhere,” the 20-year-old said. “The pillows, the bed, they all had blood all over. There were bloody handprints on the wall.”

Partida was placed under arrest for two counts of attempted homicide, two counts of false imprisonment, two counts of terrorist threats, and one count of elder abuse and was booked into the Stanislaus County Public Safety Facility. He also had a felony no-bail warrant for his arrest, and was on post-release community supervision.

The family holds Partida responsible for the violent outcome, but has been questioning the response time of the police department.

“Why did it take them so long to go in?” the 20-year-old asked.

“It’s easy when you know all the facts at the end to whether there are injuries and all that stuff that we didn’t know at the time and that they weren’t operating in,” said Hedden. “As soon as they realized there was a problem and that there could be someone injured then the decision was made to immediately go in. Our goal at the end of the day is to ensure that everybody comes out of this alive. And I am proud of the team. They did exactly what they were trained to do. I consider this a very successful mission because the bad is in custody and we were able to get everyone out.”