After a 28-hour standoff, SWAT teams entered the room of a gunman in an East San Rafael hotel and found him dead, said police spokesperson Margo Rohrbacher.
Peter James Thomas, 38, holed up inside his room with a gun at the on East Francisco Boulevard mid-morning Wednesday after police tried to arrest the man for a San Rafael supermarket stabbing last Sunday.
negotiators tried throughout the day and night to talk Thomas out of his room — where he was believed to be holding his girlfriend — but he remained inside until SWAT teams entered after sending a camera through a hole they cut in an adjacent wall just before 1 p.m.
Thomas was found dead from a self-flicted gunshot wound, police said.
Thomas was wanted by the Department for previous burglary charges, and drug and weapons violations. His warrant was for $70,000.
Thomas’s girlfriend was found on another floor and is currently in police custody and safe, according to police.
San Rafael Police said they went to the hotel around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday after receiving a tip the stabbing suspect was staying at the hotel. A single shot was fired by Thomas out of a second floor hotel room window around 10:45 a.m. — toward I-580 — prompting road closures and evacuation of the hotel.
A mile-long plus stretch of I-580, from Sir Francis Drake to Highway 101, was closed from mid-morning Wednesday until 12:40 a.m. Thursday, said Kurtis Skoog of the Sausalito Police Department.
Police were able to place a one-inch-thick piece of steel in front of the gunman's hotel room window, blocking his ability to fire any more shots toward I-580. This made it safe for I-580 to reopen, Skoog said early Thursday morning.
Wednesday night’s rush hour commute was horrible for people trying to reach San Rafael via I-580 and to pass along Highway 101, according to the California Highway Patrol that reported commutes of three hours and more in the area.
All roads are now open, Rohrbacher said.
The 46 hotel guests evacuated Wednesday morning from the hotel were relocated to a variety of San Rafael hotels. Rorhbacher said Extended Stay staff arranged for the guests to be moved — all without their belongings — at around 5 p.m.
A family of four from England trying to get home Wednesday night was unable to retrieve anything from the hotel room, extending their trip for at least one more day.
All the family's belongings, passports and their plane tickets were still in their second floor hotel room when they were evacuated. The mother and both teenaged children left with friends from San Rafael, the father said, as he remained behind, trying to gather their belongings in time to make a 7:15 p.m. flight from San Francisco International Airport to London.
Rohrbacher informed the father she could not let him in to their hotel room or arrange for the family to get their belongings, so the family’s nightmarish 6-week vacation has yet to end.
"This has been an awful holiday, and now we end it with this," the father said Wednesday, adding his son spent three weeks of their vacation in the hospital.
Ratu and Susana Sanchez were staying in the hotel two doors down from the suspect. Their 1-year-old daughter went out in the hall when the shooting occurred and they were asked to leave by police.
"It was so scary," Susana said. "He started acting crazy."
No businesses in the area were evacuated Wednesday, Rohrbacher said, but employees and customers were told to stay inside the buildings early in the day. As late afternoon approached, police asked the businesses to send employees home early to try and avoid the traffic congestion.
Thomas and walked out without paying, according to police. He was stopped and brought back inside the store, where he was questioned. During the questioning, he threatened an employee and held a knife to the person's throat, police said.
Police said he ran out of the store and several employees chased him. He unsuccessfully attempted to stab an employee from the meat section, but then stabbed a clerk in the chest. The victim's injuries were superficial, police said, and that he was treated and released.