Details emerge on Monday's standoff between police and wanted man in Hastings
A five-hour standoff between a Hastings man and police ended peacefully early Tuesday morning when the man walked out of his house with his hands up.
The incident began at about 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 23, when a Hastings Police Department officer was driving through the Cari Park neighborhood on Tiffany Drive. The officer saw Kurt Baker in the front yard of a home there, and then he saw Baker run inside the house.
The officer knew Baker had a warrant out for his arrest for a parole violation. Baker's Dakota County probation officer had put the warrant out when he failed to meet one of the requirements for his release.
Once Baker ran inside, the standoff began. Officers attempted to make contact with him, but he locked his doors. An adult male and an adult female who were in the home came out right away. They
were interviewed and released. A 21-year-old woman, Savanah Rhodes, stayed inside the home with Baker.
Telephone contact was established with Baker.
"That (contact) didn't yield a reasonable result," Hastings Chief of Police Paul Schnell said. "There were a number of demands that we couldn't comply with."
Baker made it clear he had no intention of surrendering, Schnell said. He has two prior charges of felony assault and police thought he had weapons inside his home.
"He said he would not cooperate, that he would not be taken alive," Schnell said. "That's when the HPD made the decision to activate the SWAT team."
Within minutes, residents of the neighborhood knew something serious was happening, as squad cars started filling the streets. An ambulance was parked nearby just in case, and as the minutes went by, more and more members of the law enforcement community arrived at the scene.
"When weapons are involved, or when that potential exists, we're going to err on the side of safety and use as many resources as we need to to ensure the best possible outcome," Schnell said.
Many of the officers on the scene were part of the Mutual Aid Assistance Group, a SWAT team made up of Dakota County police officers and deputies. Two men from the HPD serve on the MAAG SWAT team. The team drove a specially-designed armored vehicle onto Tiffany Drive. The vehicle had a turret atop it with a heavy-caliber weapon manned at all times during the standoff.
The key for the HPD and for the MAAG team was keeping Baker contained.
Communications continued with Baker and with Rhodes. Police repeatedly asked her to leave the residence, but she would not. As those communications continued, contingency plans were put in place.
"As things go on, if you get to a point where there is a lack of cooperation, you begin to explore other tactical options," Schnell said. "Using gas. Going in to get him. Other things to flush the person out. All those plans are being developed and considered as you have the negotiations ongoing. If the negotiation fails, you have those other options. We were exploring what other options there were."
Negotiations continued for hours with Baker. At about 11 p.m., power was cut in the area surrounding the home he was in and negotiations continued. Ultimately, those negotiations worked. At about 12:25 a.m. Tuesday, he walked out of his home with his hands up. He complied with the orders being given to him, was placed in handcuffs, led to a vehicle and taken to the Dakota County jail where he was booked.
When he walked out of his home without incident, it was a major victory for the law enforcement officials on the scene.
"There's always a sense of relief when somebody cooperates and complies and there's no need to use force," Schnell said. "That's a tremendous relief for everyone."
He is being held on the probable cause felony-level charge of obstructing the legal process.
Schnell couldn't say enough positive things about the people who responded to the scene and about the negotiators who talked with Baker and eventually succeeded at getting him to surrender.
"Negotiators played a key role," Schnell said. "They negotiated and communicated and engaged him for several hours. Things were ramping up, but ultimately the negotiators were extremely successful."
Hundreds of residents in the Cari Park neighborhood lined the streets in the area during the standoff. Many could not get to their homes because of the yellow caution tape and law enforcement's desire to keep as many people as possible away from the scene.
Homeowners were allowed to return to their homes following the standoff, but by then it was past 12:30 a.m.
In the streets, the atmosphere was like a National Night Out party. There were lawn chairs set up in the street, children were driving their bikes around, a few adults sipped Natural Light from cans and one man even cooked up a frozen pizza and came outside to eat it.
While the neighbors were taking in the event, law enforcement had one big goal - to contain Baker. They did not want him to be able to flee from the scene, and put in place a number of safeguards to ensure that didn't happen.
"We want people to know it was very well contained," Schnell said. "We had the contingencies covered. There wasn't going to be a threat leaving that home and affecting the safety of the community. We never had a concern about containment."