News

Police swarm scene of reported gunman building a bomb

Man found at El Camino Park in Palo Alto wearing body armor

A Palo Alto police officer talks with a man who bystanders thought was making a bomb in El Camino Park on June 17. Courtesy David Henry.

Palo Alto police rushed to intercept a man who was reportedly armed with a gun and allegedly constructing a bomb in El Camino Park on Wednesday morning, June 17.

Dispatchers received a call at 10:16 a.m. that a man was carrying a rifle in the park at 155 El Camino Real, Sgt. Dan Pojanamut said. Witnesses later reported the man was carrying a handgun. Multiple police officers responding to the scene were also told by witnesses that the man was making a bomb on the soccer field and was wearing bulletproof body armor.

Police declined to disclose to this news organization what tactics they used to deal with the man, but they confirmed they encountered an 18-year-old wearing a Kevlar vest. He had a realistic-looking weapon that turned out to be a BB gun. It did not have an orange tip that would have distinguished it from a bullet-carrying firearm. The man was cooperative, Pojanamut said.

"He made a poor decision. He was trying to clean the BB gun in a public area," Pojanamut said.

It is legal for a person to wear body armor if not a convicted felon, he added. Police had a lengthy conversation with the man about his poor judgment.

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Pojanamut emphasized that, at all times — and especially in the current environment of civil unrest — people should be cognizant of their actions and how they might be perceived.

"If you have any weapon, (keep it) on private property out of the view of the public," he said.

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Police swarm scene of reported gunman building a bomb

Man found at El Camino Park in Palo Alto wearing body armor

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Jun 17, 2020, 10:02 pm

Palo Alto police rushed to intercept a man who was reportedly armed with a gun and allegedly constructing a bomb in El Camino Park on Wednesday morning, June 17.

Dispatchers received a call at 10:16 a.m. that a man was carrying a rifle in the park at 155 El Camino Real, Sgt. Dan Pojanamut said. Witnesses later reported the man was carrying a handgun. Multiple police officers responding to the scene were also told by witnesses that the man was making a bomb on the soccer field and was wearing bulletproof body armor.

Police declined to disclose to this news organization what tactics they used to deal with the man, but they confirmed they encountered an 18-year-old wearing a Kevlar vest. He had a realistic-looking weapon that turned out to be a BB gun. It did not have an orange tip that would have distinguished it from a bullet-carrying firearm. The man was cooperative, Pojanamut said.

"He made a poor decision. He was trying to clean the BB gun in a public area," Pojanamut said.

It is legal for a person to wear body armor if not a convicted felon, he added. Police had a lengthy conversation with the man about his poor judgment.

Pojanamut emphasized that, at all times — and especially in the current environment of civil unrest — people should be cognizant of their actions and how they might be perceived.

"If you have any weapon, (keep it) on private property out of the view of the public," he said.

Comments

Ryan Chen
Barron Park
on Jun 17, 2020 at 10:47 pm
Ryan Chen, Barron Park
on Jun 17, 2020 at 10:47 pm
36 people like this

I'm sure a social worker could have handled this situation, right?


Pastor Bains
Midtown
on Jun 17, 2020 at 11:13 pm
Pastor Bains , Midtown
on Jun 17, 2020 at 11:13 pm
32 people like this

Handled with total professionalism. This had a significant opportunity of going very very bad given the circumstances. . Sergeant Pojanamut should be recognized for descalating the situation.


Member
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 18, 2020 at 12:02 am
Member , Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 18, 2020 at 12:02 am
10 people like this

I was there playing soccer next to him and he seemed like a nice guy as we shared a brief conversation. But, agreed, it was poor judgment on his part. I'm glad it was handled professionally.


Tsk
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 2:29 am
Tsk, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 2:29 am
13 people like this

Haha, as if! Not buying it!


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 7:36 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 7:36 am
17 people like this

Well done PAPD. Very pleased this did not turn into a shoot out in a place where children and others play normally in a very safe area.


Well Done, But For
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 7:49 am
Well Done, But For, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 7:49 am
15 people like this

Thank you Officer Panajamut - this situation could have ended up being awful.

One thing I take issue with is your saying we are in a state of “civil unrest’”. That’s absurd. If that is how the PAPD views our few peaceful rallies and marches, some involving our Congresswoman, Mayors, Assemblyman, and County Supervisor, and Marches with City Council members participating, not once but more times. And those with no elected were of course similarly peaceful. This over reactive mindset is toxic.

Here is how civil unrest is defined:
“Civil unrest is typically defined by as a gathering of three or more people, in reaction to an event, with the intention of causing a public disturbance in violation of the law. Civil unrest typically involves damage to property or injury to other people.”

So we have great work by this Officer but we have a systemic problem in the PAPD.


JR
Palo Verde
on Jun 18, 2020 at 7:51 am
JR, Palo Verde
on Jun 18, 2020 at 7:51 am
6 people like this

This situation should be investigated for possible bias by community members and potentially the police. This individual was reportedly "building a bomb", but how many community members even know what "building a bomb" looks like? There was a recent case of an African American kid reported for "building a bomb" that was actually a clock. If this person in El Camino Park had been white, would he have even been reported? These are questions that community members and police need to ask themselves so that we can improve our society and eliminate racial bias.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 7:59 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 7:59 am
22 people like this

These are not normal times and whatever label you decide to call the emotional state most of us are living in, it is not very restful, peaceful or very normal.

People are not working, kids are not doing normal summer activities, any large group is not allowed due to social distancing, large numbers of people are out and about in public wearing masks - something that in the past would have been frightening in itself, people are on edge. Every day in the news we see pictures of various types of violence, we have seen looting in normally peaceful areas, and we in Palo Alto have been put under curfew.

If this does not put people's perceptions of times of "unrest", I don't know what will.

We are going stir crazy and it only takes seeing something a little odd to scare normally rational people into protective action.


Police Force
Downtown North
on Jun 18, 2020 at 8:09 am
Police Force, Downtown North
on Jun 18, 2020 at 8:09 am
24 people like this

I was there. All I know is that a raggedly looking guy was sitting on a field, and was met with about 10 officers with riot shields and large weapons. After handcuffing him while he was on his knees at gunpoint (we was cooperative when they yelled through a bullhorn and saw the paramilitary coming his way), they talked to him for a long while before letting him go.

Didn't look like a kevlar vest to me. Looked like a very loose, thin, sleeveless shirt. Obviously he had nothing and did nothing, otherwise they wouldn't have let him go with nothing but trauma. Could be wrong, but I am sharing what my eyes observed.


Police Force
Downtown North
on Jun 18, 2020 at 8:11 am
Police Force, Downtown North
on Jun 18, 2020 at 8:11 am
13 people like this

@"If this person in El Camino Park had been white... "

The individual did not appear to be a minority.


musical
Palo Verde
on Jun 18, 2020 at 8:31 am
musical, Palo Verde
on Jun 18, 2020 at 8:31 am
5 people like this

Rather have civil unrest than uncivil unrest.


Suspicious
Ventura
on Jun 18, 2020 at 10:47 am
Suspicious, Ventura
on Jun 18, 2020 at 10:47 am
Like this comment

History makes me suspect that if he had been a black man he would have been treated differently. He would have been viewed as a hostile, threatening, outsider--no matter how compliant he may have been.


Vini
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 18, 2020 at 10:52 am
Vini, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 18, 2020 at 10:52 am
Like this comment

Thanks for deescalating a potential tough situation Officer.
These are the times of civil unrest.Period. People all over the country are sad, angry and are trying to protest the killing of unarmed, captive men and women of color. Many of these rallies have erupted into violent ones due to police folks wrestling their muscles, and many looters taking the cover up of a good cause rally. If any doubt look around you.
The 18 y/o was advised wisely and acted wisely in response too.
Social workers wouldn't be a wise first choice to provide any intervention. But as a second line of support, definitely along with mental health therapist.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 10:55 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 10:55 am
4 people like this

There has been some "civil unrest" in elsewhere. I haven't seen any here. Only peaceful protests, protected by the US Constitution. In Palo Alto, only -small- peaceful protests. A "large" peaceful protest is relative to the location, but, we seniors recall a few 250,000-500,000 crowds back in the 1960's. Hundreds of thousands, not hundreds. And I don't appreciate confusing peaceful protests with riots.

I also am very confused by the descriptions of this incident. They seem inconsistent. Is this a "Karen"-type incident? Bomb? Body armor? Are there pictures of what people say they saw? And, since owning firearms is legal, was the person actually doing something threatening? What?


BobH
Palo Verde
on Jun 18, 2020 at 11:46 am
BobH, Palo Verde
on Jun 18, 2020 at 11:46 am
4 people like this

Do I have this right? There was no bomb, he wasn't wearing body armor, didn't have a hand gun, and the weapon was a BB gun.

I am glad the Palo Alto police handled it well and didn't overreact.


Lotshungry
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 11:49 am
Lotshungry, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 11:49 am
7 people like this

The issue I see is he looks very thin and malnourished....please help those in our society that are less fortunate...maybe police could have given him a ride to a local soup kitchen or charity...


Calls the cops
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 12:58 pm
Calls the cops, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 12:58 pm
2 people like this

[Post removed.]


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 1:09 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 1:09 pm
Like this comment

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


John
Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 18, 2020 at 2:02 pm
John, Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 18, 2020 at 2:02 pm
17 people like this

Well trained, well paid officers make this happen. PAPD was on the streets throughout COVID, while most everyone else was isolating at home. Remember this kind of incident when the city wants to cut their pay this year.


Jennifer
another community
on Jun 18, 2020 at 2:33 pm
Jennifer, another community
on Jun 18, 2020 at 2:33 pm
16 people like this

Cleaning any type of gun in a public area is poor judgment. It's threatening to any community, and some residents will call the police. I'm not one to call the police myself, but I appreciate those who do. They're erring on the side of caution, and that's a good thing.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 2:38 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 2:38 pm
5 people like this

Read Nextdoor and see just how suspicious people are. From people walking looking into cars, to people standing staring at homes, and people wearing masks and not wearing masks, everyone seems to be on alert, looking for potential problems. People are calling the police for anything that looks suspicious, cars asking for directions, cars being left for days on end (not too surprising when nobody is working), kids playing in other people's yards, etc. etc. etc.

[Portion removed.]


TimR
Downtown North
on Jun 18, 2020 at 3:06 pm
TimR, Downtown North
on Jun 18, 2020 at 3:06 pm
18 people like this

I was jogging past when this first started, but only paused to watch briefly before continuing on and letting the police do their jobs. They had Alma blocked off, and over one vehicle's PA I heard (as I left) them ordering the man to put his hands up. Then, 15 minutes later when I passed back through, everyone was gone. Great. professional job by the PAPD, and yet another example of why their funding should NOT be cut. Maybe others don't care about public safety, but I do--I don't want to be shot or blown up as I jog along city streets.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 3:29 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 3:29 pm
Like this comment

Posted by TimR, a resident of Downtown North

>> I was jogging past when this first started, but only paused to watch briefly before continuing on

So, did you see anything like what is alleged to have been called-in? Like, the "body armor" or "bomb"? In the picture, the guy is shirtless. (And, extremely skinny.). But, he does have his social-distancing face cover.


Anonymous
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 18, 2020 at 4:13 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 18, 2020 at 4:13 pm
5 people like this

Not sure what I would have made of this had I seen it. But after 9/11 a new phrase, “If you see something, say something” came into existence. The public was advised of this, makes sense. Nothing wrong with investigating unusual activity. I wouldn’t be able to distinguish various types of guns or BB guns...why clean any gun out in a park? Seems worthy of dispatching police to check it out and secure the scene because the public could have been shot. My ancestor had one eye shot out from a BB gun.


TimR
Downtown North
on Jun 18, 2020 at 4:16 pm
TimR, Downtown North
on Jun 18, 2020 at 4:16 pm
Like this comment

@Anon,
"So, did you see anything like what is alleged to have been called-in?"

No, I figured the police had chased him there, due to some other incident someplace else. He looked like a generic homeless person to me.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 4:59 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 4:59 pm
4 people like this

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis

>> Seems worthy of dispatching police to check it out and secure the scene because the public could have been shot.

TBH, onceuponatime, I would call police occasionally to make a wellness check on a homeless person who clearly couldn't manage on their own. No more. I've read too many news stories, a few of them pretty close to home.

Too often, police show up, give someone "a lawful order", the person doesn't respond the way they are supposed to, and, bang. It happens all the time. Whole websites devoted to listing mentally ill people killed by police completely needlessly. And, when you read the accounts, clearly most police simply have no training with how to deal with mentally ill people.

We need public safety units trained to deal with mentally ill people.

So no, I don't call. I've given away food and coupons for food when I happened to have them. Some people I know seek out homeless people to help this way. Nobody I know calls police, because, for some reason, most police expect the homeless mentally ill to behave rationally. For some reason, they don't.


Anonymous
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 18, 2020 at 8:02 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 18, 2020 at 8:02 pm
2 people like this

@Anon
Sadly, point well taken...


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 9:23 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2020 at 9:23 pm
Like this comment

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis

>> Sadly, point well taken...

I can't vouch for this organization, Web Link , but, I have used their website, which has some very fact-oriented information on this topic. e.g., Web Link




Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2020 at 5:49 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2020 at 5:49 pm
Like this comment

Sorry to follow up my own post, but, the website cited above has a very useful section, the "Preventable Tragedies Database".

Web Link

This is a database of incidents that can be queried by date or other info. For people who would like to explore what kinds of things happen when law enforcement responds to incidents involving mental illness. I was able to test it using several incidents that I recalled some details of.


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