Tense standoff at motel lasts for seven hours

The BearCat, an armored vehicle used by Gilroy and Morgan Hill police officers, enters the parking lot of the Morgan Hill Inn Motel during a police standoff on Monterey Street near Barrett Avenue. A 29-year-old unidentified Hispanic male barricaded himsel

After an almost seven-hour standoff Tuesday, Morgan Hill Police arrested a parolee and a female companion who barricaded themselves inside a motel room on Monterey Road in south Morgan Hill, according to authorities. The entire motel, which consists of about a dozen rooms, and surrounding businesses were evacuated, and the incident brought dozens of bystanders out to the sidewalk from Barrett to Tennant avenues to observe the drama.

Staff at a nearby taqueria less than a block away from the Morgan Hill Inn Motel continued to announce lunch orders over a loudspeaker system throughout the ordeal. Police and public safety volunteers closed down an expanding section of Monterey Road to all traffic, from Tennant to Cosmo avenues. About two blocks surrounding the motel were eventually closed to all foot traffic as well.

Martin C. Flores, 29 of San Jose, and Erica E. Madriz, 29 of Gilroy, were arrested after the Morgan Hill/Gilroy SWAT team fired gas canisters into the second-floor hotel room where the two were staying, according to Morgan Hill police Sgt. Troy Hoefling. Neither were armed, though Flores led police to think he was armed.

About a dozen short, loud banging noises could be heard from the hotel’s parking lot starting at about 4 p.m. and after each report a puff of smoke could be seen emerging from an officer who was perched atop an armored vehicle shared by South County jurisdictions.

A few minutes later, Flores and Madriz exited the room voluntarily, Hoefling said. About 10 officers carrying rifles and wearing heavy protective vests and helmets then filed up the stairs to the second floor. Officers yelled at Flores several times, asking him to show his hands and to remove a bracelet that he was wearing around his fingers, Hoefling said.

The standoff started just before 10 a.m., when a Morgan Hill officer on patrol ran the license plate of a silver Nissan Altima in the hotel’s parking lot, Hoefling said. Both the front and rear plates on the vehicle were from two separate vehicles reported stolen out of San Jose, but the Altima was not stolen.

When officers determined which hotel room the vehicle was associated with, they tried to contact the occupants by knocking on the door, police said. A woman’s voice could be heard from inside, asking officers to allow her to get dressed, after which the officers could hear someone moving furniture around inside the room. Police later determined the occupants were moving furniture in front of the hotel room door in order to prevent entry.

Flores then told police that he was “armed and willing to die,” Hoefling said. That brought more than a dozen police patrol cars, sport-utility vehicles, fire trucks and other law enforcement vehicles including the armored “Bearcat” vehicle that is shared by Morgan Hill, Gilroy and County law enforcement agencies.

The Morgan Hill/Gilroy SWAT team was on the scene until the standoff ended, and sharp shooters positioned themselves in discreet locations surrounding the two-story motel. San Jose Police K-9 officers and patrol cars also surrounded the motel.

Madriz, whose relationship to Flores is unknown, was not considered a hostage at any point during the standoff, Hoefling said. She was offered a chance to leave peacefully by police, but she decided to stay holed up in the hotel room with Flores.

Police determined early on in the standoff that Flores was out on parole on an assault with a deadly weapon conviction, Hoefling said. The last time he is known to have checked in with state parole personnel was November 2012.

Flores also has a lengthy rap sheet in Southern California, including robbery, providing false information to officers, domestic violence and narcotics, police said. Officers also searched the Nissan and found stolen mail and other stolen items, possibly related to recent burglaries in the San Jose area.

The Morgan Hill/Gilroy SWAT and Hostage Negotiations Teams remained in contact with Flores and Madriz throughout the standoff, though police did not disclose any details of their conversations. At one point officers and Madriz could be heard shouting at each other in English and Spanish through the motel room window, which the suspects opened intermittently.

Around 1:40 p.m., somebody in the room threw an unidentified object from the open window over the balcony and down to the parking lot. The object was attached to what appeared to be a sheet or rope coming through the window.

When the two suspects finally exited the room and were in custody, officers found that Flores had broken into the room next door by breaking through a door between the two hotel rooms, Hoefling said.

No weapons were found, though police found a fake handgun in the Altima, police said.

Flores will likely be booked on a “litany of charges,” including burglary, a number of robberies that stolen items in his car might connect him to, and possession of a replica firearm, Hoefling said.

Madriz is suspected of facilitating Flores’ attempt to avoid arrest, Hoefling said.

The suspects were not involved in the Monday abduction of a toddler in San Jose that sparked an Amber Alert before the child was found safely, authorities said.

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