Standoff In Highland Park Leads to Multiple Arrests
Female suspect in Gold Line robbery still at large.
By Gloria Alvarez, EGP Staff Writer
Sharon Rodriguez and Guadalupe Sanchez woke up Monday morning to the sound of a Sheriff’s Department helicopter flying overhead and a booming male voice warning residents in their Highland Park neighborhood to lock their doors and stay inside.
As soon as it “calmed down,” they rushed to the scene two blocks away where Sheriff’s deputies were engaged in a standoff with one or more suspects barricaded in a home on the 5700 block of Aldama Street. They were not alone: dozens of nearby residents stood watching from behind the yellow-taped perimeter set up by deputies between Avenue 57 and Milwaukee Street.
“I haven’t really seen anything like this for a long time,” Highland Park resident Susan Luna told EGP. She said she heard the helicopter and deputies calling for the suspects: “They were saying ‘come out, surrender with your hands up because we are not going away.”
Deputies had gone to the home in search of a woman they believed was involved in a September 2013 robbery on the Metro Gold Line, according to Sheriff’s Public Information Officer Ramon Montenegro. He said deputies with the department’s Transit Bureau had information that the suspect might be at the home. “We were looking for the female suspect and that’s when we noticed a man running out of the house,” Montenegro told EGP.
The time was about 8:30 a.m.
The fleeing man, whose name has not yet been released, had a stolen gun on him when he was placed in custody, Montenegro said.
The situation quickly escalated when “the female suspect and other people barricaded inside the home,” he added. Not knowing what they were facing inside or if there were more weapons, the department’s Special Weapons Team (SWAT) was called in, Montenegro told EGP.
Meanwhile, over a loud speaker, deputies repeatedly ordered the people inside to come out, hands raised, but there was no response.
“To the people inside 5728 Aldama, come out one by one. We know you’re in there; we are not going anywhere. It’s only going to get worse for you,” boomed a man’s voice repeatedly.
A man standing near the perimeter told EGP there was a pregnant 16-year-old girl inside; he said his uncle was the baby’s father, but refused to give EGP either his name, or that of the girl he alleged was in the house. She said she would not come out until “all the news vans are here,” he said.
Moments later, a Hispanic male exited with his raised and was quickly taken into custody and put in a patrol car. Deputies questioned him about who was inside: “Is it Rianna or Raquel,” a deputy asked. A family member later identified the man as Rick Cordova, father of Rianna, 18 and Raquel, 21.
It was still unclear who or how many people were still in the house. It was now after 11 a.m. Deputies continued to call on the barricaded suspects to surrender, now using the names Rianna and Raquel in their announcements.
Frantic family members of the home’s known residents had begun to show up. Some lived nearby and heard the sheriff’s commands. Others were called to the scene by neighbors and friends or other relatives worried that the occupants were not exiting and the Sheriff’s response was growing in size and force.
There was confusion among the family members. “Are they inside? Are the girls inside,” asked one woman, referring to the toddler age daughters of Raquel Cordova. They repeatedly tried to make contact with Raquel and her sister Rianna to find out if the children were inside, and to get Raquel to send them out if they were.
Phone messages and texts were not answered.
More time passed.
“Why don’t they just come out! What do they think they are doing?” said Rick Cordova Jr, the girls’ 43 year-old brother who said he had not seen his sisters in a while.
His aunt, Lorenza Cordova, Rick Cordova Sr.’s sister, told EGP that she thought the girls’ brother Jacob might also be inside. “He just got of jail last Sunday,” she said incredulously. Rick said when he reached Jacob earlier by phone his brother told him to call the news and then hung up.
Meanwhile, Sheriff’s called in more support, setting up a command center in the public parking lot near the Gold Line Station at Avenue 57.
Nearby resident, Esteban Sehimpf, said he heard the helicopter around 10:30 a.m. and rode his bicycle to see what was going on. He said he was surprised to see the show of force: “Helicopters, armored vehicles, like 40 people with powerful automated weapons here. It just seems crazy, oppressive,” Sheimpf told EGP. “I don’t know why they have all this stuff that they use in war,” he added before calling it a waste of taxpayers’ money.
At some point, family members learned that Raquel’s daughters were not inside as feared. Repeated calls to Rianna just rang and rang, unanswered, Rick told EGP.
One woman asked if it is true that Rianna is pregnant? “I think she is,” answered another woman. “Why aren’t they coming out,” another asked. “They’re probably stoned,” someone else responded.
Lorenza told EGP the girls’ mother had recently moved to another state to get away from their “abusive” father. “I hope this doesn’t pull her back,” she said.
It was now 1:45 p.m. and deputies stepped things up, moving an armored diversionary device to outside the front of the house. A loud blast from the device startled onlookers; family members scrambled to get a closer look.
One by one, the barricaded suspects started to exit with Raquel in the lead. Onlookers tried to identify the three men and two women as they were taken into custody without further incident.
Rianna was not among those who exited.
“You mean Rianna wasn’t in there, are you kidding me,” said one of the female spectators. “Why isn’t she answering her phone!”
Sheriff’s detectives completely cleared the area by about 2:30 p.m., Montenegro told EGP.
As of print time on Wednesday, it was unclear which suspects were still in custody.
Montenegro told EGP that detectives are still looking for Rianna Cordova, confirming for the first time that she is the suspect in the Gold Line robbery. Her sister Raquel initially identified herself as Rianna to deputies, Montenegro said Wednesday.
When deputies first arrived at the house they were looking for information, he said. They did not have a warrant, but one was obtained during the tense standoff.
Asked if the Sheriff’s response to the situation was, as one family member described, “overkill,” Montenegro told EGP that deputies followed the department’s policies and procedures. “What are you going to do if someone comes out of the house shooting a gun? Our deputies are always going to error on the side of safety,” he explained.
EGP staff writer Jacqueline Garcia contributed to this story.
May 8, 2014 Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.