San Rafael police standoff over; suspect dead


In the early hours of Thursday morning, the gunman's view of the outside world was blocked by an eight-by-ten foot sheet of metal steel suspended from a crane. The one-inch thick piece of steel offered bullet-proof protection for the public and allowed officers to reopen the one mile stretch of I-580 that had been closed throughout the day.

"An officer came up with the idea of hanging a steel plate," San Rafael Police Department spokesperson Margo Rohrbacher said, adding that a company was quick to come out to the hotel with a crane and the sheet of steel.

But after not hearing from the suspect, identified as 38-year-old Marin County resident Peter James Thomas, for several hours, police drilled several holes into the hotel room at the Extended Stay Deluxe and inserted a camera into the room. When authorities saw the man's body, they entered the room.

The woman who was in the room with the suspect, believed to be the man's girlfriend, was OK and was taken into police care to be interviewed. She is not believed to be considered a suspect in the standoff or Sunday's attempted grocery store robbery. Her name has not been released.

"I really can't give specifics about the girlfriend other than that she is safe in our care," Rohrbacher said. "She's not under arrest."

Police will not say how Thomas died, but say officers were not involved and no gunshots were exchanged.

Thomas had outstanding $70,000 warrant in Marin County for burglary, weapons and drug charges.

Eighty police officers had been at the hotel since around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday when police say Thomas fired a shot from his second-floor hotel window as police came to arrest him.

"It was fired in the direction of 580; we can't confirm exactly where it landed," California Highway Patrol spokesperson Chris Rardin said.

Concern for drivers' safety forced poice to shut down the stretch of I-580, leading to a traffic nightmare Wednesday evening.

Police had been looking for Thoma since Sunday, when he allegedly stabbed a San Rafael grocery store worker after being caught shoplifting. Police say he then drove away in a stolen car.

About 50 hotel guests had to be evacuated during the ordeal. Many came back Thursday to try to pick up their belongings.

"It's too bad it ended the way it did, but at least it ended," hotel evacuee Drew Schlichtmann said.

Several law enforcement agencies from nearby communities, including San Francisco, joined with San Rafael negotiators. Additionally, a SWAT team from the FBI was also on-scene.

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