Santa Barbara officers, S.W.A.T. teams and sniper shooters held a standoff in front of a downtown Ralph’s on Friday after one man began brandishing a gun in public.
After an hour and twenty minutes, police determined that the suspect, Ralph Providence, was waving a replica firearm, said Santa Barbara Police Dept. Sgt. Mike McGrew. Police then fired two beanbag shots at Providence and subdued him, transferring the man to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for minor injuries. No other injuries or casualties were reported during the standoff.
McGrew said the incident began at 5:25 p.m. when police arrived at Ralph’s for an unrelated incident, in which a juvenile was allegedly exhibiting signs of suicidal behavior. According to McGrew, when police arrived, Providence brandished his gun at the Ralph’s storefront entrance, located at 100 W. Carrillo St.
McGrew said Providence was standing before the store for several moments before officers arrived to assist the allegedly suicidal juvenile.
“He was loitering and [was] asked to leave,” McGrew said. “He didn’t.”
An additional 20-30 officers were then called onto the scene and portions of surrounding areas such as Figueroa, De La Vina and Chapala streets were closed off to the public. Neighboring facilities such as the Santa Barbara Ballet Center and the Metropolitan Transit District station were also locked down.
Dos Pueblos High School sophomore Chelsea Cambron said she was forced to stay within the confines of the ballet center during the standoff.
“I was fixing my shoes and I could hear police from the office telling [Providence] to put down the gun, ” Cambron said. “I shut the door and we went into lockdown.”
She said nine other girls were with her in the ballet center while her mother, Jeanette Cambron, was waiting outside. Jeanette Cambron said police officers would not let her cross the blocked streets to go see her daughter because of possible danger.
“[The officers] said, ‘They can’t get out and you can’t get her,'” she said.
During the standoff, officers directed Ralph’s shoppers to the store’s back entrance where they escaped unharmed. Santa Barbara City College student Nathan Lemon said he was in the Ralph’s store when Providence first revealed his weapon and that police were quick with their rescue.
“I was on the phone with my dad and about to get out of the store,” Lemon said. “We were moved to the back of the store then waited 10 or 15 minutes. [Police] then walked us across the street. … There were 30 or 40 people in the store.”
Westmont College student alumni Ryan Reiner said he, too, was in the store during the standoff and that he was shocked by the incident.
“We had just bought our groceries,” Reiner said. “I had come out the front of the store and saw a guy with a gun. We got back inside the building and [police] moved us around. … It’s sad that these things have to happen.”
Meanwhile, McGrew said the allegedly suicidal juvenile was calmed and suffered no harm.
“The situation was taken care of,” McGrew said.
Lemon, a native of Long Beach, said he was surprised that such an incident could occur in Santa Barbara.
“I’d expect this in Long Beach, but here, that’s a little different,” he said.