NORTH HIGHLANDS -- A SWAT incident on Jan. 29 had the flashing lights and armored gear of the kind of scene that could slide into grief for the family of an officer or for the barricaded person they had been called out to confront.
But that day in North Highlands tragedy was averted.
"He was saying he wanted to blow up the trailer within the trailer complex," said Sacramento County Sheriff's Sgt. Ian Carver. "The subject had violated a restraining order and was back at his wife's home and he was refusing to leave when deputies arrived."
It was later discovered the woman was actually the suspect's ex-wife.
While Sgt. Carver started positioning his 16-person SWAT team, Deputy Allie Murphy and the Critical Incident Negotiation Team deployed, armed with words instead of weapons.
"The kids were a landmine for him," Deputy Murphy said. "He was upset that the kids were not there, so I knew that was something to stay away from."
By talking to the ex-wife, deputies were able to figure out firearms were not the suspect's focus and that despite his threats, he had no history with explosives.
But Carver said "he just liked setting things on fire" and they spotted him holding a lighter. Fire personnel were at the ready.
Deputy Murphy supported another sergeant, who was not on her negotiations team, as he established a rapport with the barricaded man. He did it from just 40 feet away through an open window.
"Face-to-faces are the hardest negotiation you'll ever have to do," Murphy told FOX40. "And the biggest challenge with a face-to-face negotiation is like right now I'm talking to you, I can't hide my emotions."
Concern over home repair built a bridge.
"Sgt. Esty had actually walked him through fixing the window because he didn't want to leave the window damaged for his wife and kids," Murphy said.
"What ended favorably for us was that he finally wanted food," Carver said.
He also wanted to hear a recorded statement from his mother.
"The statement basically was like, told her son, 'Hey son, you're my first born. I love you. I don't want you hurt, the cops don't want to get you hurt. We want you to come out safe,'" Murphy said.
"It was a big break. It was a big break because you could see him kind of break down. You could see him soften in his shoulders and you could see that the mom voice had a good effect on him."