Unalaska standoff with cops ends quietly
After causing a huge drunken scene with threats of gunplay last week, Robert Cash finally sobered up in jail where he observed his 55th birthday.
The standoff, with Cash threatening "mayhem" and local police ended peacefully last week, when he finally left the Unalaska home and was taken into custody on a local gun charge dating back 11 years, according to Jamie Sunderland, director of the Unalaska Department of Public Safety.
"At no time did we see any gun. We couldn't see him, because he was in the house," in a highly intoxicated state, though keeping in touch with police by telephone, Sunderland said. "He did not brandish a gun. No shots were fired."
The incident started at about 6 p.m. March 19, when Cash was reported driving a pickup truck "very, very poorly," with the vehicle bouncing off snow banks and guard rails, Sunderland said. A police officer followed the truck to 154 Aerie Drive, on Generals Hill in the valley.
When the police officer contacted him outside the home, Cash threatened to get a gun and "go out in a blaze of glory," and then went indoors. The officer backed away, and other police were called to the scene.
Cash held up a sign in the window with a phone number, which police called him on, Sunderland said. Police chose not to try to enter the home, to avoid aggravating the situation, and besides, the home owners didn't want them going inside. The owners were out of town at the time, and kept in touch with Cash and police with phone calls, he said.
Numerous phone calls later and on the following day, Cash still highly intoxicated, left the house and surrendered. He was arraigned on a 2002 charge of stealing a gun and trying to pull it on a police officer, said Sunderland, who added that Cash does not face any charges from last week's incident.
Cash's behavior caused a disturbing scene at the hilltop neighborhood, with the constant presence of police, according to Yudelka Leclere, who complained of being kept in the dark about what was really happening. Was there a serious threat or not? Should her family leave and go to a hotel until the situation returned to normal?
"I think the cops handled themselves well. It's just the communications part," she said. Leclere complained of not being able to sleep, as she and her husband feared for the safety of her two daughters, ages 8 and 17. When Leclere went to work at the local cellphone company, she said her mother skipped work and stayed home to watch over the girls.
"I didn't get any sleep" she said, as she constantly watched the activity next door throughout the night. Throughout the tense situation, police politely contacted local residents as they drove to and from their homes, shining flashlights inside their cars to see who was inside, she said.
"A little public relations" in the form of the police going door to door to tell the neighbors what was going on would have been helpful, Leclere said.
"Skip's house is directly behind my house," she said. The house is owned by local resident Earl "Skip" Southworth, who said last week he was on vacation in Arizona, as he made his case for an appointment that would return him to the Unalaska City Council.
Leclere said she was returning home last week, when she saw numerous police cars and officers with guns drawn near her house.
"They had rifles out," she said.
Sunderland said police tried to keep a low profile.
"Most of the time, it was one or two officers sitting at the end of the driveway, trying to keep warm," he said.
Sunderland said Cash turned 55 in jail Sunday, and is being held in the absence of $5,000 bail and a third party custodian. His next court appearance is expected in about a week. Cash fled Unalaska after the 2002 incident, and a warrant was issued for his arrest, Sunderland said.
Southworth served on the council in 2008 and 2009. Now he is seeking an appointment to a seat that opened up when another council member resigned and went to work for the public safety department. City employees are not allowed to serve on the city council.
The appointment was on the agenda of Tuesday's meeting, when the council was expected to choose between Southworth and Doanh Tran for the seat vacated by Zac Schasteen, who returned to the public safety department as a fire captain, having worked there previously as a police officer. In between Schasteen's city jobs, he served on the council and worked for the local landline telephone company.
Jim Paulin can be reached at email@example.com