Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Flag-waving gunman closes Calif. highway

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – "A masked gunman waving an American flag and a handgun on a freeway overpass surrendered to police Monday after forcing a traffic shutdown for hours.

The man gave himself up at midmorning west of downtown Santa Barbara at Highway 101, a major route along the California coast. No shots were fired. Traffic was backed at least three miles in each direction.

The man agreed to give up after he was allowed to attach a Barack Obama campaign sign and the flag to the overpass railing, said police Sgt. Jim Pfleging.

Police were continuing to investigate a duffel bag and the man's car at the scene but "we have no credible threats or any threats of explosives," Pfleging said.

Police identified the man as 28-year-old Eddie Van Tassel. Pfleging said the man is believed to be a service veteran and will receive a mental health evaluation.

The man, wearing a ski mask and brown fatigues, had the flag in one hand and the gun in the other when officers arrived on the highway's La Cumbre Avenue overpass just after 7:10 a.m., said police Sgt. Lorenzo Duarte.

A police special weapons and tactics team and a crisis negotiation team used a bullhorn to communicate with him. After nearly three hours, he put the handgun on the ground and walked backward to police officers.

As for the man's motive, Duarte said, "The reason appears to be anti-war, but I don't know the specifics."

Typical Kalifornified nutcase. Threaten people with a firearm to protest violence. Gotcha.

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