SWAT officers surrounded a house in the East Minnehaha neighborhood for several hours Wednesday before entering it but were unable to find a man who eluded Oregon and Washington police early in the morning.
Sergio Hunt, 25, of Vancouver is wanted for domestic violence-related crimes in Tigard, Ore., that include harassment, menacing and burglary, said Sgt. Scott Schanaker with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.
Early Wednesday, Tigard police were notified of a suspicious person outside an apartment that has been the target of repeated unlawful entry attempts, a Tigard police bulletin said. The same apartment has also generated reports of restraining order violations, unlawful use of a weapon, menacing and criminal mischief. Hunt is believed to be involved, according to the release.
Clark County law enforcement first heard about the case around 3:40 a.m., when Oregon police were in pursuit of a car, allegedly driven by Hunt, that was traveling north on Interstate 5 from Portland, Schanaker said.
The car hit a police-deployed spike strip near I-5 and Fourth Plain Boulevard, but continued to elude police, Schanaker said. Deputies followed a trail of gouges in the road left by the car’s metal wheels to a home at 4913 N.E. 55th St.
“Due to the nature of the alleged suspect’s activities in Oregon, the home was surrounded and attempts were made to contact the residents inside by phone and loud hailing,” Schanaker said in a release.
Deputies knew there were a number of people in the home when they arrived, but weren’t sure if Hunt was there, Schanaker said.
After about an hour and a half, residents responded to police requests and came out of the home.
Deputies weren’t sure if the occupants helped the suspect find shelter or escape, so SWAT was activated, Schanaker said.
Hunt’s aunt and uncle, Wendell and Francillia Williams, rent the home that was raided. Wendell said they were asleep when police arrived and thought the noise was someone watching TV with the volume too high.
Schanaker, who wasn’t on the scene but has SWAT experience, said people often say they don’t hear hailing.
The Williamses left the home, were handcuffed and put in the back of a patrol car, Wendell said. He said the car that his nephew was allegedly driving wasn’t at his home when he went to sleep.
Officers deployed tear gas and sent in a robot to search the home, but didn’t find the suspect.
The Williamses were upset about the condition of their home after the search. Police shot tear gas through windows, cut holes in the ceiling and roof, opened drawers and moved items around the home while trying to find Hunt.
Several hours after the search tear gas fumes still caused discomfort if they were inside the home for more than a few minutes, Wendell and Francillia said.
“It’s not fair what they did to us,” Wendell Williams said.
Schanaker said the severity of the response was probably due to the fact that the residents stayed inside the home for an hour and half after police asked them to come out. SWAT officers need to stay safe and err on the side of caution, he said.
Deputies weren’t sure if the suspect was in the home, he added.
SWAT officers typically shoot tear gas to try to coax anyone in the home to come out; cut holes in the ceiling and roof to insert special cameras to see if someone is hiding in the attic; and move things around to make sure no one is hiding, Schanaker said.
The Williamses think it is suspicious that deputies overturned pillows and opened dresser drawers if they were trying to find a person, they said.
“Can anybody hide under pillows?” Wendell said.
Their food, clothes and other personal items were destroyed in the search process, the Williamses said.
Wendell said what is more upsetting than the property damage was the way he was treated made him feel like a criminal.
People who have SWAT search their home can file a claim with the county’s risk management division to start an investigation for compensation.
Some neighbors told The Columbian they weren’t surprised that SWAT was on their block Wednesday morning.
Matt Elkins, who lives near the raided home, said the people who live there were “partying” until 4:30 a.m., just before police arrived.
Donna Ruegg said she calls police weekly to report loud music, garbage in the street and a lot of cars coming in and out of the home.
Matt Sammons, who lives near the home, heard the loudspeaker when he was taking his dogs out Wednesday morning.
Later, he was outside smoking when a sheriff’s deputy asked him to move across the street for safety reasons, he said. He stood on the corner of Northeast 49th Avenue and Northeast 55th Street with several other neighbors who were watching the SWAT activity down the street.
Sammons said his neighborhood is usually pretty quiet.
“I think it’s a little crazy,” he said of the police activity near his home.
County property records indicate the house is owned by Tu-Anh and Vinh Nguyen.
Tigard police are investigating Hunt’s case. Anyone with information related to his whereabouts should call 503-639-6168. If he is seen, call 911.