A disgruntled father held more than half of the on-duty Spokane Police Department at bay for about three hours Thursday, after authorities said he threatened the staff of the day care attended by his son.
William Roy Dahlen, 29, first called the day-care staff about 11a.m., saying he would bring a gun to the day care if he wasn’t allowed to see his son, Deputy Chief Al Odenthal said.
Dahlen then threatened to use the gun on himself or officers if police tried to arrest him at his apartment on the 700 block of East Liberty, Odenthal said.
Police closed off streets surrounding the apartment but they did not order residents to evacuate. They trucked in a recreational vehicle-command post and called in the SWAT team.
Dahlen surrendered about 2:30 p.m. to the heavily armed officers and was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of conveying a physical threat by telephone.
“We were concerned about his having a firearm and carrying out the threat,” Odenthal said, explaining the scale of the police response.
“We didn’t want to just let him walk away and let him carry out that threat in a couple days or sooner.”
Dahlen’s former girlfriend, Allison Whaley, has filed two civil counts of domestic violence against him, in 1999 and 2003, according to Superior Court records.
A protection order against Dahlen, preventing him from seeing the couple’s son, remains in place until Nov. 23. The boy is 6 or 7, said Whaley’s attorney, Erik Highberg.
“The restraining order has been in place for some time. I don’t know what led up to this,” Highberg said.
Dahlen was charged earlier this year with telephone harassment.
That misdemeanor charge is pending in Spokane County Circuit Court, records show.
After Dahlen called the Express day-care program at Sacajawea Middle School, staff called police, who sent officers first to the day care and then to Dahlen’s apartment, Odenthal said.
Day-care officials put the school in lockdown from about 11 a.m. to 12:10 p.m., said Lisa White, the director of Express, in a letter to parents.
“While there was a police presence at Sacajawea, we do not believe the children were aware of the situation,” White said in the letter.
Dahlen did not have a gun when he exited his apartment. Odenthal said a search warrant had been obtained to search his home.
Police negotiators spoke with Dahlen, who remained animated over the telephone for most of the standoff, Odenthal said.
“The propensity for violence is always there,” Odenthal said.
“Do I subject my people to walking up to a door with someone who might be armed? Containment and safety, especially in a residential neighborhood, is the priority.”
Facing a single misdemeanor charge, it’s not likely Dahlen will stay long in jail.
“Only he can keep himself from doing this again,” Odenthal said of Dahlen. “If he didn’t like this process, we hope he wouldn’t repeat it.”
Lawrence Walker, 45, walked up to the police command post after he saw the blocked streets.
He said his wife recently filed for divorce and hasn’t been able to see his three children.
“I don’t know what he’s done,” Walker said of Dahlen. “But all this (response) because he can’t see his kid? It’s not right.
“That’s what’s wrong with the system. Kids shouldn’t be caught in parents’ disputes.”