UPDATE: Police take suspect into custody following second barricade incident

Published 3:37 pm Friday, December 14, 2018

NILES — A suspect who barricaded himself in a Niles Township home on two separate occasions has been taken into custody, according to the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department.

The second incident took place around 1:20 p.m. Dec. 16 when Berrien County 911 received a call reporting a disturbance occurring between at least two individuals in the area of 1628 Florence, Niles Township.

Deputies with the Sheriff’s Road Patrol and Niles Township Patrol responded to the scene. It was determined that the 21-year-old male from a barricade incident Friday, which initiated the lockdown of Brandywine Community Schools District, was once again barricaded inside his residence.

The exterior of the residence was secured. After a short time, deputies were able to negotiate the suspect’s surrender.

The suspect, whose name was not released by police, was lodged at the Berrien County Jail on the four charges stemming from the incident on Friday. The incident will be sent to the Berrien County Prosecutor office for the following charges:

  • Assault with dangerous weapon
  • Unlawful imprisonment
  • Interfering with communications
  • Possession of controlled substance

Deputies were assisted at the scene by troopers from the Michigan State Police. Responding agencies included, Berrien County Road Patrol Niles Township, Berrien County Tactical Response Unit, Berrien County Hostage Negotiation Team, Niles City Police Department, Niles Township Fire Department and the South Western Michigan Community Ambulance.

The original barricade incident involving the same suspect occurred around 2 p.m. Friday. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department advised the Brandywine Community Schools district to initiate a precautionary lockdown, due to a reported knife threat occurring in close proximity to school grounds.

According to the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department, deputies were called to 1628 Florence Ave. in Niles after two occupants of the home reported they were threatened with a knife. The 21-year-old who threatened the individuals then barricaded himself inside the home, where he also resided. The suspect’s name was not released.

Once deputies made entry into the home, they discovered the suspect had fled the scene prior to their arrival.

The house where the incident occurred is less than 0.3 mile from Merritt Elementary School, which is located at 1620 LaSalle Ave. As a precautionary measure, police asked that the Brandywine school district be placed on lockdown.

The district emphasized in a Facebook statement that administrators and staff were following the orders of local police and that students were not in immediate danger.

“Everyone is safe, and this has been a precautionary measure for an off campus incident,” the statement read. “Thank you for your cooperation.”

Around 2:30 p.m., police provided some updated information that allowed the lockdown to cease for two of the district’s schools: Brandywine Middle and High School and Brandywine Elementary. Dismissal was expected to take place as usual.

Merritt Elementary school remained on a periphery lockdown as a precaution until about 3:50 p.m. Students were not able to be released until 25 minutes after their regular release time at 3:25 p.m.

Brandywine Community Schools Superintendent Karen Weimer said everyone in the district worked together to follow instructions.

“Everybody was patient for the most part and worked together and just understood that the things were going to be slower than normal, but again safety is our utmost concern,” Weimer said.

During the lockdown, Weimer said classes continued as normal, but no one was allowed to leave or enter the building in accordance with the lockdown.

She also praised students for their efforts throughout the afternoon.

“And the kids were wonderful,” Weimer said. “They did what they were supposed to do and teachers did as well. They were never in any danger. It was just a precautionary measure.”

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department said they could not release any information about the nature of the incident that occurred near the school district.

The sheriff’s department said the case will be sent to the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office, with charges of assault with a dangerous weapon, unlawful imprisonment, interfering with communications and possession of a controlled substance.