TAMPA TRIBUNE

Suicidal Man Prompts Neighborhood, School Evacuations
By KEITH MORELLI kmorelli@tampatrib.com
Published: May 30, 2003


TAMPA - Scores of police were held at bay early Thursday and dozens of residents were evacuated from their homes on Clark Street when a man who had a fight with his wife doused himself with gasoline and threatened to set himself on fire, officials said.
Hundreds of students on buses to nearby DeSoto Elementary School were diverted to a middle school, officials said.

After a 4 1/2-hour standoff, a mayonnaise sandwich proved to be the icebreaker police needed to storm the house, stun the man with two beanbag bullets fired from a shotgun and resolve the situation without injury, they said.

Police said the standoff occurred on Clark Street east of 22nd Street near the Port of Tampa, and it ended after the man asked for lunch. As officers delivered the sandwich, they rushed into the small house on the north side of the tree-lined brick street.

Alejo Danilo Ramos, 61, was charged with first-degree arson after he lighted a gasoline- soaked pillow when police swept into the house, officials said. The fire was quickly extinguished.

Ramos remained in the Orient Road Jail on Thursday afternoon. Bail was set at $50,000. He also was held under the Baker Act, which allows for detainment of people who pose a threat to themselves or others.

``We negotiated with the individual, and we reached a point where he requested lunch,'' said Tampa police Capt. Bob Guidara. ``We decided to do that for him, and that's when we made a tactical decision to make entry.''

No one else was in the house, he said, but police were concerned.

``We believed him to be armed, and we knew he had doused himself with gasoline,'' Guidara said. ``We were very careful, very cautious.''

Dozens of police and fire vehicles crowded the otherwise quiet neighborhood, keeping traffic and residents away from the 2600 block of Clark Street.

It was about 7 a.m. when police knocked on Ryan McKay's door.

``I didn't know if it was a gas leak or if it was a biohazard or what was going on,'' McKay said. He doesn't know Ramos but said the man always waved and seemed friendly.

Residents were allowed to return to their homes about 11:30 a.m., about 15 minutes after Ramos was detained.

Most of the 300 DeSoto Elementary pupils were not at school when the evacuation was ordered. Those on buses were taken to Ferrell Middle School at 4302 N. 24th St., where they spent their last day of school, a school spokeswoman said. Those walking or being driven went home, she said.

Four or five students were at the school when the evacuation was ordered, said head custodian Dinorah Garcia, who added she heard the domestic argument at Ramos' house before police arrived.

``It's usually quiet here,'' she said. ``We never have any problems.''


Reporter Keith Morelli can be reached at (813) 259-7698