Convicted arsonist arrested in raid; tear gas, flash devices required to subdue suspect
Convicted arsonist Douglas A. Gerrie was arrested late Monday night in Tahoe Donner in a raid by Nevada County Sheriff’s Office deputies and a SWAT team, after arming himself with a firearm and refusing to come out of his home.
After numerous attempts at communication with Gerrie, and almost every window in the Skislope Way home was shattered by launched tear gas canisters, he still refused to come out of the home and officers finally entered the home to detain the suspect after using a disruptive explosive device to confuse him.
Gerrie, 45, has been charged by the NCSO with allegedly being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm, making terrorist threats and threatening a peace officer.
Officers began surveillance on the residence, which is owned by Gerrie’s parents, on Sunday when neighbors reported Gerrie was wandering around his yard holding a firearm and yelling. A warrant for arrest as well as a search warrant were obtained Monday when officers witnessed Gerrie with a gun on his back deck, NCSO Capt. Gary Jacobson said.
“It was for the safety of the public and for the officers delivering the search warrant that we took such extraordinary steps,” he said.
Jacobson said the NCSO last made contact with Gerrie on July 28, when they arrested him for an outstanding warrant in Alameda County for alleged assault with a deadly weapon in Pleasanton, Calif.
Gerrie is known by some Truckee law enforcement agencies as a “resident arsonist,” said one firefighter. Gerrie was charged 10 years ago with setting a Tahoe Donner wildland fire.
According to an Aug. 2, 1990 Sierra Sun article, Gerrie was suspected by the U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection of setting “over 100 fires in the Truckee-Susanville area dating back to 1982.” The article stated Gerrie became a suspect “after several contacts with suppression personnel at fire scenes in Truckee in 1988.”
On Monday, part of Skislope Way was closed off and a few neighbors were asked to temporarily vacate their homes while officers continued to try and make contact with Gerrie. Members of Nevada County’s Special Enforcement Detail Team tried to contact Gerrie from outside of the house by telephone and speaking to him over a Public Announcement system, requesting that he come out of the house with his hands in the air. Jacobson said Gerrie would not surrender and was threatening to hurt and kill officers.
At 10 p.m. Monday, officers administered a chemical agent into the home using a 37-millimeter gas launcher. When Gerrie still refused to come out of the home, officers used what is called a “Flashbang” to confuse the suspect. It causes a flash of extremely bright light followed by a loud explosion sound. Officers then entered the residence to detain Gerrie.
“He was located in an upstairs bedroom, and after a short struggle, was taken into custody,” Jacobson said.
Gerrie was brought first to Tahoe Forest Hospital and then booked in the Truckee substation. He was later taken to the Nevada City jail.
“We felt with the information that we had there was a threat to the public,” Jacobson said. “We took immediate steps so there was not a violent situation.”
Jacobson added that Truckee Fire Protection District personnel and local residents assisted the officers.
Jacobson said as far as officers know at this point, Gerrie never pointed the gun specifically at any one person.
Nathan Deden, 25, of Truckee was at his parents’ house during the incident and said he viewed the raid from the front deck. His parents live across the street from the home where Gerrie lived.
“Over the past couple of weeks we hadn’t even seen him,” Deden said. “But he’d be out in his yard yelling things before that.”
Deden said neighbors who lived next door to Gerrie’s house said that Gerrie threatened them and they fled from their home to Placerville on Sunday.
“I saw some really big explosions going on,” Deden said. “I think they just about broke every window in the house. I saw his silhouette in the window and they shot some tear gas and he bolted out of the way.”
Deden said he believes Gerrie has lived in the house for about two years, but most of the time it appeared he was never home.
“The lights would come on at weird times in the night, so he was home,” he said. “He was obviously not a normal neighbor. Nobody knew him.”
Deden said Gerrie would go on yelling rampages occasionally as early as 4 a.m.
“He would talk, but not to anybody in particular,” he said.
NCSO officers were still searching the home late Tuesday afternoon and the case is under investigation.
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The blaze grew to more than 50,000 acres as of Thursday morning but the Nevada Wildfire Information Map shows that figure could easily be at 60,000 acres.