Suspected Hostage Situation Prompts Neighborhood Evacuation

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Officers from local law enforcement agencies were dispatched to what was believed to be a hostage situation on Apache Drive in Mesa del Caballo Wednesday afternoon.

"The Gila County Sheriff's Office was contacted at approximately 3:28 p.m. by the chief of the Mesa del Fire Department," GCSO Lt. Adam Shepherd said. "It was reported that a female subject said she had been assaulted and held against her will."

According to Shepherd, the woman believed the alleged perpetrator was inside the house with weapons and felt the children residing there were in danger.

Roads surrounding the home were quickly barricaded and neighboring residents evacuated.

The sheriffs department requested assistance from the Payson Police Department's Special Response Team.

"We have a team of officers that has a higher level of protection equipment, have tactical training and some special weapons," Payson Police Chief Gordon Gartner said.

By 7 p.m., sheriff's deputies had created a perimeter at the scene and a contingent of armed special response officers dressed in camouflage closed in on the house.

"The officers from the tactical team surveilled the residence from both front and back and decided how they were going to enter the residence," Shepherd said. "Eventually, they just went up to the front door and that's how we found out that there wasn't anybody inside and that no one was being threatened."

Minutes later, police and sheriff's vehicles began leaving the scene, saying little about the situation. Confused residents started toward their homes, wondering whether the exodus meant they could return home after being displaced for four hours.

The alleged victim was taken in for questioning. According to Shepherd, the alleged perpetrator was found a short time later in Payson and the children were found to be safe at a third party's home in town.

"We did find the subject and interviewed him at the Payson Police Department," Shepherd said. "It's still under investigation. We're still not sure what actually occurred -- but we're working on it."

"We're very familiar with this group of people so we checked in some places and found him," Gartner said.

The sheriff's office is continuing its investigation of what began as a potentially volatile situation.

"When somebody says there's somebody with weapons and they're going to do something dangerous, you have to take them seriously until you find out otherwise," Shepherd said. "You don't want to get anyone hurt."

"We were grateful for the opportunity to assist the sheriff's department with our special response team," Gartner said. "That's why were here -- to help our fellow officers."

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