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Black River man arrested after armed standoff


BLACK RIVER — A man is jailed on seven charges after an overnight armed standoff of nearly four hours with police at his residence, 106 Wendell Lane.

William A. Spears, 38, fired no shots at police, a Jefferson County sheriff’s detective said, but “less lethal munition,” consisting of pepper balls and bean bag rounds, were fired at him as he attempted to escape.

Mr. Spears is charged with three counts of weapon possession, unlawful wearing of body armor, first-degree reckless endangerment, menacing a police officer and third-degree criminal mischief. LeRay Town Justice John W. Hallett sent him to the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building, Watertown, setting bail at $25,000.

Said to be a military veteran, Mr. Spears allegedly rammed his 2012 Dodge pickup into a Sheriff’s Department armored tactical vehicle about 1:30 a.m. Monday as he tried to flee.

The Sunday night call was the second for the Sheriff’s Department at the Spears residence, Sheriff John P. Burns confirmed. On July 27, he was taken into custody on a mental health pickup order and was taken to Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown, for evaluation. Mr. Burns did not know how long Mr. Spears was kept at the hospital’s mental health clinic.

The pickup order was issued after Mr. Spears’s Veterans Administration counselor became concerned by comments made during a telephone conversation, the sheriff said.

Mr. Burns said he did not know if deputies were aware on July 27 about weaponry being in the house, but added they could have seized guns that day if they had known about them.

Sheriff Burns said he had no details about Mr. Spears’s military record and does not know if he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.

The sheriff’s emergency response team and the Watertown police special response team were dispatched shortly after an armed suicidal man was reported to be in the garage of his residence, which he purchased in August 2008. Also on hand were Black River police and state troopers.

Police determined there were no hostages. Mr. Spears’s wife, Selinda, was there earlier, said Detective David J. Pustizzi Jr.

Detective Paige C. Taylor said in a court document that while she carried on telephone negotiations with Mr. Spears, he told her “he was going to let us kill him and he wanted us to shoot him.”He indicated he would open the garage door, would walk out and start shooting his guns into the air, she said.

As the negotiations continued, the detective said, she believed he was under the influence of alcohol because his speech was slurred and sometimes not understandable.

He eventually broke off the negotiations. Mr. Spears emerged from his residence, armed with a tactical shotgun and semiautomatic pistol, and wearing a military ballistic vest, according to the sheriff’s office. He reportedly entered his pickup, backed from the driveway, and attempted to proceed on Wendell Lane, where he slammed head-on into the sheriff’s Humvee.

No injuries were listed by the sheriff’s office.

Mr. Spears was taken into custody after both the sheriff and city response teams discharged their less- lethal munition.

Black River firefighters closed off neighboring streets during the standoff, and Black River Ambulance was on standby.

Authorities say Mr. Spears:

nPossessed a loaded 12-gauge tactical shotgun and a .45-caliber Glock semiautomatic pistol while threatening suicide or suicide by police.

n“Used” a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle against a police officer.

n Possessed the AR-15 rifle, the shotgun and pistol while wearing a U.S. Army-issued tan tactical ballistics body vest.

nPossessed a Browning semiautomatic pistol, unknown caliber.

nPossessed numerous large-capacity semiautomatic magazines in excess of 10 rounds.

n He intentionally engaged in a head-on motor vehicle collision.

Mr. Spears is formerly of Springfield, Ill. His only reported local police encounter occurred in January 2004, when he was charged with driving while intoxicated in the town of Pamelia. He has a criminal case from earlier this year pending in his hometown, however. The State Journal-Register, Springfield, reported Feb. 24 he was charged with felony theft.

His grandmother told police that a gold coin collection worth several thousand dollars had been stolen from her, and she named him as a suspect. An investigation revealed that the Gold Center had deposited $8,936 into his bank account, the newspaper reported.

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