SPOKANE — Fire engulfed a downtown Spokane gas station Monday night after police used tear gas and flash-bang grenades to try to force the surrender of an armed man barricaded inside.
The man remained alive and able to continue talking with police even after smoke and fire raged through the interior of the 76 station at the corner of Second Avenue and Walnut Street. He was eventually taken into custody around 11:30 p.m., The Spokesman-Review reported.
The incident started with a traffic stop at about 5:30 p.m. along Highway 2, according to Spokane police Cpl. Teresa Fuller. When a Washington State Patrol trooper pulled over the vehicle the man was a back-seat passenger in, he was not forthcoming with his identity and pointed a handgun at the trooper.
“He told the trooper he was not going back to jail,” Fuller said.
The man then took control of the vehicle after the driver and front-seat passenger exited the car, Fuller said. The WSP trooper pursued the vehicle to the area of Second Avenue and Walnut Street.
The armed man ran into the gas station from the parking lot as police gave chase at about 5:50 p.m. He asked a clerk to call someone on his behalf, but she was so rattled and shaking that he made the call himself, said Daune Montel, a gas station employee.
“He was talking about how he wasn’t going back to jail,” Montel said.
He told the clerk that he did not wish to hurt her while he had his gun drawn, and told her to leave the gas station as Spokane police, Washington State Patrol troopers and firefighters surrounded it.
Police negotiators attempted to talk the man into surrendering, but he refused to give up.
Guests at the Tiki Lodge next door who were outside the building were not allowed back into the area as the situation developed, according to witnesses. The people still inside were told to stay in their rooms.
At about 7:15 p.m., police lobbed gas canisters into the building in an attempt to force the man outside. Witnesses heard at least 50 pops and bangs.
At about 7:30 p.m., officers broke the glass walls. Black smoke then poured from the building and within minutes fire engulfed the inside and flames could be seen coming from the roof. Police later said they believe the man started the fire.