The Eureka (Calif.) PD SWAT team parked a dump truck in front of Honda's room, blocking the window and preventing any threat to motorists on U.S. 101 beyond.
Making the Call
Senior Det. Neil Hubbard was at least initially optimistic. He had the advantage of knowing Honda firsthand, having worked with the man from time to time on rescue callouts when they'd both worked with the Trinity County SO. That the two men had hitherto enjoyed a mutual respect for one another was cause for Hubbard's optimism that Honda might yet be taken without incident. As much by virtue of his assignment as by his relationship with the man, Hubbard was destined to be the primary negotiator with Honda.
A quickly established containment was thrown up around the motel and the necessary evacuations were made. Then Hubbard made the call into Honda's room. The two men spoke, but it soon became clear that while Honda still thought enough of Hubbard to talk with him, he had no intentions of coming out of his own volition.
The situation having gone barricade, SWAT assumed control as other law enforcement agencies arrived to assist, among them the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department.
Harpham's son, Ronald, was a Eureka detective and SWAT team member. He joined the department's senior sniper, Officer Robert Metaxas, across the street inside a commercial building that overlooked Honda's motel room. The two men maintained a vigil of Honda's room until the early morning hours. Then the SWAT team parked a public works dump truck in front of the picture window of Honda's room, effectively bottling up Honda and preventing any threat to motorists on U.S. 101 beyond.
With the threat to the public minimized, Det. Harpham and Officer Metaxas re-deployed elsewhere as Hubbard and others continued their efforts to have Honda surrender. But each passing hour brought with it heightened aggressiveness from Honda and diminished optimism for Hubbard. By the evening of Dec. 8, Hubbard was disheartened and even mental health workers who'd tag-teamed with him in negotiating with Honda left the command post dejected.
"This is going to end in a suicide by cop," was their flat prognostication.
Time for the Gas
The decision to forcibly extract Honda from his room had been a long time coming-more than 36 hours, in fact. Throughout, there'd been a succession of position reliefs so that at around 30 hours into the operation many of the principals involved in this final phase were reasonably rested and alert despite having been there at its beginning.
From a room adjacent to Honda's, Det. Harpham insinuated a camera into the suspect's room as Officer Tim Jones, the department's gas operator, fired the first 40mm gas canister into the room behind it. Three more canisters followed over the succeeding hour, and still Honda had not emerged. Adding to the officers' collective frustration was an inability to identify just where Honda was inside the room, despite its relative confines and the rotation-friendly surveillance camera lens inside.
The command post was in the process of discussing a SWAT entry when the door to the motel room opened. From seven yards away, Det. Harpham watched as the soles of two shoes emerged from the door's threshold.