LANCASTER – A body believed to be that of a convicted felon who had refused to surrender to authorities was found just before midnight in a Lancaster house that caught fire after a SWAT team deployed a “flashbang” grenade and tear gas into the structure, authorities said.
The body was found at the scene of the fire in the 45000 block of Gadsden Avenue, said coroner’s Assistant Chief Ed Winter. The identity and cause of death were not immediately known, Winter said.
The sheriff’s department reported that the deceased is a man who had been wanted on an arrest warrant. A sheriff’s Special Weapons Team was sent to the location about 7:30 p.m. Thursday to arrest “a known felon in possession of a firearm,” the sheriff’s department reported.
“[We] had a search warrant for the house in the 45300 block of Gadsden,” said Lancaster Sheriff’s Station Captain Pat Nelson, adding that the suspect was believed to be involved in drug sales and had an extensive criminal history.
Nelson said several people were called out of the house during the service of the search warrant.
“There was some indication that the suspect that they were looking for was still inside, and because of his history and the fact they believed him to be armed, they called the special enforcement bureau,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the team spent hours trying to get the suspect to exit the house and made announcements on the ground and from the helicopter.
“They introduced a diversionary device, a flashbang, in an effort to get him to exit the house. He still didn’t,” Nelson said. “They made more announcements and ultimately ended up introducing teargas into the house.”
“At some point, subsequent to that, a fire erupted,” Nelson added.
The fire was reported around 11:07 p.m. Thursday, according to Los Angeles County Fire Department Supervisor Michael Pittman said.
“Special weapons deputies entered the residence at approximately 11:45 p.m., put out the fire, and found the suspect deceased. The cause of death is unknown and will be determined by the medical examiner,” sheriff’s officials said in a released statement.
A sawed-off shotgun was found inside the house and a search for other weapons was being conducted Friday morning, according to the sheriff’s press statement.
During the hours-long standoff, surrounding homes in the area were evacuated. Residents were allowed to return to their homes around 1 a.m. Friday.