Believing there were Iraqis in his front yard, Gulf War veteran Michael Gene Robinson, 52, began what would become a nine-hour standoff around 2 a.m. Sunday when he grabbed four guns, barricaded himself inside his home and began shooting at Payson police officers.
Robinson’s wife and two of three children escaped from the home moments before Robinson started shooting. Five hours into the standoff, Robinson released his 9-year-old son and several hours later, Robinson surrendered, but was only subdued after police tasered him.
No officers or Robinson were injured. Robinson is charged with four counts of attempted homicide on a police officer.
Payson Police Chief Don Engler said the incident started at 2 a.m. when Robinson’s 46-year-old wife called police after Robinson reportedly became upset and got his guns out. The wife told police she and Robinson had argued earlier in the morning and he had been drinking.
Shortly after calling police, Robinson’s wife and two of their children, fearing for their lives, left the home in the 2700 block of W. Nicholas Drive and fled to a neighbor’s yard.
Police found the wife and children uninjured. The wife told officers their 9-year-old son was still in the home asleep and unaware of the situation.
When officers arrived at the home, Robinson broke the glass out of several windows in the front of the home and started shooting.
Talking with police negotiators Robinson said that the police officers in front of his house were Iraqis and therefore his enemy.
Payson’s special response team was called to the scene, including Engler along with negotiators Sgt. Dean Faust and Det. Mike Varga.
The negotiators made contact with Robinson and attempted to get him to surrender.
During one of the phone calls Robinson told Varga that he was a Gulf War veteran and was suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder.
“We tried to get him to stop shooting,” Varga said. “But he kept saying there were Iraqis in his yard.”
Throughout the negotiations, Robinson claimed there were Iraqis in his front yard and that is why he was shooting. Varga repeatedly told him they were officers, but Robinson refused to believe him.
Although no officers were struck, several rounds hit near officers who were stationed throughout the yard. Around 20 shots were fired, striking trees, mailboxes and a neighbor’s home.
Around 7 a.m., Robinson decided to release his 9-year-old son. The boy walked out the front door uninjured. Varga asked Robinson why he would release his son out the front door if he believed there were Iraqis in the yard.
“He never gave me a clear answer,” Varga said.
Negotiations continued with Robinson, but Varga said they seemed to be getting nowhere because Robinson still thought the officers were “the enemy.”
Several of Robinson’s friends and family members were brought to speak with him by phone and tried to convince him that the people in his yard were police officers. Robinson said he did not believe the first three friends, but did believe the fourth friend, Varga said.
“The main issue with this negotiation was trust,” Varga said. “We had to convince him we were police officers, but he kept accusing us of being Iraqis.”
Several hours after the friends were called in, Robinson came out of the home.
“I did not expect him to come out when he did,” Varga said because Robinson gave no warning he was leaving the home.
After Robinson refused to comply with officers’ orders in the yard, Sgt. John Heflin used a Taser to subdue him.
“This was a very significant negotiation,” Varga said. “We used all the tools in the toolbox.”
During a search of Robinson’s home after the standoff, officers found a large amount of ammunition and six shotguns and rifles.
Residents near Robinson’s home were evacuated during the standoff. A bullet struck one home to the west of Robinson’s and a tree in a neighbor’s yard across the street was hit.
Police blocked the length of Nicholas Drive until 6 p.m. Sunday. Police are still investigating the incident and may add charges, Engler said.