Here's why Pleasant Hill police initially left scene in 2-day standoff where former cop arrested

BySuzanne Phan KGO logo
Sunday, December 10, 2023
Here's why Pleasant Hill police initially left scene in 2-day standoff
The big questions are why did Pleasant Hill police leave the armed man barricaded alone in his home and why did officers leave late Thursday night?

PLEASANT HILL, Calif. (KGO) -- A Pleasant Hill man involved in a police standoff that spanned two days is now in custody. Forty-year-old Chunliam Saechao peacefully surrendered early Saturday morning.

Now there are questions about how police handled the emergency.

Police say the former Pittsburg police officer and marine shot his wife on Thursday night and kept officers at bay for hours.

The Pleasant Hill police chief is under scrutiny for having officers leave the scene before the standoff ended.

RELATED: Pleasant Hill police issue 2nd shelter-in-place order for neighborhood where man allegedly shot wife

A barricaded Pleasant Hill man allegedly shot and injured his wife through a door and posted suicidal messages to X, police say.

Saturday afternoon, Pleasant Hill police were still on scene at a home on Cleopatra Drive, hours after Saechao turned himself in.

Police say Saechao fired a shotgun through a locked garage door Thursday night, injuring his wife as she tried to get into their home. Her injuries were not life-threatening. She was treated and released from the hospital.

On this Saturday, the police chief had to answer a lot of tough questions about their handling of the standoff.

The big questions on many minds are why did police leave the armed subject barricaded alone in his home and why did officers leave late Thursday night?

"We didn't completely leave. We had surveillance going, we had undercover, we had a ready response team of patrol officers ready to go as well," said Chief Scott Vermillion with Pleasant Hill Police Department.

TAKE ACTION: Get help with mental health issues

Vermillion admits the SWAT team did leave the scene. But he said detectives were constantly monitoring Saechao's social media account and felt he wasn't a threat to the general public.

"I thought it was the best way to de-escalate the situation. I also felt, based on our investigation, he may have a resentment or hostilities towards law enforcement, being that he used to be law enforcement. And he may be suffering from mental health crisis," Vermillion said.

Police officers returned to the home Friday evening after Monument Boulevard.

According to police, Central County SWAT team and crisis negotiators attempted to speak with Saechao to have him surrender.

Police said Saechao also posted messages on social media indicating he might be suicidal or attempting suicide by cop.

The chief says Saechao fired as many as 30 rounds at an armored vehicle overnight.

He surrendered peacefully just before 8 a.m. Saturday.

About 1,000 people were impacted by the standoff, according to the chief. They couldn't leave their homes or return home.

"Yeah, that was very unfortunate. We regret that," Vermillion said.

Neighbors had mixed reactions.

"It's hard to judge. I think they know what they are doing," said Kirill Borsob of Walnut Creek, regarding the action police took in the Sherman Acres neighborhood.

Amy Jeschke lives in the neighborhood but was not asked to evacuate. Jeschke said she was concerned by the suspect's social media posts and how events played out.

"I want to give the police credit. I think they are doing the right thing. But it didn't feel, for anyone in the neighborhood, like we were being taken care of or protected," Jeschke said.

The chief says he made the decision to pull the SWAT Team and officers out of the area in hopes of de-escalating the situation.

"I believe I made the right decision, but having said that, the factors changed. My decision to do that really didn't work, and for that I'm accountable," Vermillion said. "We are glad this did end peacefully with no loss of life."

Saechao faces a number of charges, including assault with a deadly weapon and attempted homicide. He's in custody at Contra Costa County Jail.

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live