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Police empty-handed after SWAT standoff

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Members of the Roswell Police SWAT team stand by an armed vehicle outside a residence at 314 S. Birch St. Friday afternoon. Police officers encircled the residence for several hours, after hearing that an armed robbery suspect was inside and would not leave. Police repeatedly ordered any occupants within the building to come out with hands up. At 5 p.m., police entered the residence and came out about eight minutes later without a suspect. (Alex Ross Photo)

An armed robbery suspect that was believed to be holed up in an apartment was the cause of an hours-long heavy presence by Rowell Police in a suburban neighborhood Friday afternoon.

Police later discovered the suspect was not in the apartment when they entered the residence at 314 Birch Ave.    

Todd Wildermuth, public information officer with the RPD, said the heavy police presence was in response to an armed robbery in which a cellphone was taken.

Police received a call at about 1:30 p.m. from the 1600 block of North Ohio Avenue about the robbery, but Wildermuth said he did not know if the location from where the call was made was where the armed robbery occurred. He said police learned the suspect might be at the apartment during the course of their investigation.

Wildermuth said he did not have a name of a suspect to release because he did not know if any criminal charges had yet been filed.

The situation transformed the neighborhood into something reminiscent of a war zone, with fatigue-clad officers in bulletproof vests surrounding the apartment and armored vehicles parked nearby.

Chris Menard, owner of the apartment where the suspect was believed to be, was at the scene. He said police called him and told him someone wanted by police was seen going into the apartment and refused to come out.

Throughout the incident, access to traffic was restricted on portions of  South Birch Avenue, West Alameda and South Sycamore streets, with idling police units acting as barriers.

Residents of the neighborhood stood on sidewalks at the ends of driveways and in front yards to catch a glimpse of the scene unfolding.

Armed officers in bulletproof vests and fatigues meanwhile stood outside the front door while others patrolled the area around the apartment.

Repeatedly, police called for any occupants within the apartment to come out with their hands up, but the demands were met only with silence. After receiving no response, officers broke a window out in the front of the apartment at 4:52 p.m. and threw teargas inside.

Officers made entry at about 5 p.m., while others moved about the property with guns drawn. Minutes later, officers were seen coming out of the apartment but without anyone in their custody.

Menard later said police informed him the windows in the apartment had been broken. Wildermuth said Friday night that based on the information he has, two windows were broken by officers while dealing with the situation.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301 or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com