A 28-year-old felon barged into a northwest Fresno engineering office Tuesday evening, threatening workers with a knife, barricading himself inside and then lighting small fires as officers closed in on him.
Police Lt. Joe Alvarez said all of the workers inside Cornerstone Structural Engineering Group on Alluvial Avenue near Palm Avenue got out safely before the man shut himself inside, and the man was suffering only from smoke inhalation when he was hauled out about 9:40 p.m.
Police said Wednesday the motive may have been theft, fueled by drugs. Lt. Joe Gomez said the suspect, identified as Michael Rankin, had methamphetamine on him when he was arrested, and workers later found a hypodermic syringe in a trash can.
Rankin is in the state probation program for auto theft, police said.
Alvarez said the incident started just after 6 p.m. when the man barged in, barricaded himself in the upstairs office, refused to negotiate with officers and began lighting fires and breaking windows as police closed in on him. At one point he appeared poised to jump from a second-story window but then retreated.
Alvarez said that when officers entered the building about 9:40 p.m., they found Rankin passed out from smoke inhalation. He was reportedly in stable condition at Community Regional Medical Center and refusing to talk with investigators. Sgt. Ignacio Ruiz said that once Rankin is released from the hospital he will be booked into Fresno County jail on charges including arson, criminal threats, resisting arrest and probation violation.
Alvarez said there is minor smoke and fire damage in the office, as well as broken windows and a door damaged when police used force to enter.
Police did not immediately say how many were inside at the time Rankin entered the building. He was armed with a small knife. The building was safely evacuated.
Ruiz said police used standard tactics to try to negotiate with Rankin during the standoff, including calling in crisis negotiation Officer Art Rodriguez. As officers closed in on Rankin, he lit furniture and other items on fire and threw lit sheets of paper at officers who were outside the building. Some of the sheets of paper thrown caught bushes on fire, but the officers were able to put out the fires using a hose from a neighboring business.
A representative at Cornerstone Engineering said Thursday that workers could not comment on the incident.