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May 7, 2013

Homicide suspect dead in Royal Oak standoff

Murder victim was Birmingham teacher

By Robert Guttersohn and Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writers

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Homicide suspect dead in Royal Oak standoff
An armored vehicle belonging to the Oakland County SWAT team sits on Strague Avenue in Royal Oak while police attempt to make contact with a possible gunman barricaded inside.

Royal Oak police have confirmed that the suspect in a home on Sprague Street is dead following a daylong standoff.

The Oakland County SWAT team had been awaiting contact with a suspect believed to be armed inside a house on Strague Avenue, just east of Minerva, in Royal Oak.

According to Royal Oak police on the scene, the suspect had been holed up in the house since 10:30 a.m. Negotiators were using a blow horn to communicate with the suspect. No shots have been fired, but the street was barricaded.

Police explained that they believe the suspect is involved in a homicide that occurred in the village of Franklin. It’s believed that the home on Sprague belongs to an acquaintance of the suspect.

Ryan Kovich, 25, and his girlfriend, Erin Barrett, 23, live in the 200 block of Minerva and watched the scene unfold outside their door. Barrett said that at around 10:30 a.m. she heard a neighbor yelling something about an armed gunman. Barrett walked outside her home to see police vehicles going up and down the street, along with an armored vehicle.

“I heard a couple of explosions. It sounded like a pop more than boom,” said Kovich, noting that he suspected the noises were tear gas canisters.

He added that at one point he saw armed personnel going around the house, though that could not be confirmed by police.

Another neighbor, Larry Steed, who lives in the 400 block of Minerva, said he saw the SWAT team send a robotic camera unit into the house to evaluate the situation. That, too, could not be confirmed with police at the scene.

Royal Oak Schools sent out notifications earlier today to parents indicating that children leaving school should avoid the neighborhood, south of Gardenia, east of Campbell, west of I-75 and north of 11 Mile Road. In an email from Superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin, families living in that area should arrange to have their children held at the school and picked up from the building, rather than sending students home on their own.

Franklin-Bingham Farms Police Chief Daniel Roberts declined to comment on the standoff situation or the homicide case at this time, saying that more details would be released later this afternoon.

According to an email that went out to parents of West Maple Elementray School in Birmingham,  longtime Birmingham school teacher Harry Berkowitz died in connection with the incident.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Robert Guttersohn at rguttersohn@candgnews.com or at (586)218-5006.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.