A two-day standoff at a hotel near the University of Minnesota ended Tuesday afternoon when police arrested a man who had holed up in a sixth-floor room while grieving for his daughter and sending angry messages alleging someone had stolen his exotic cat.
Officers apprehended the man shortly before 1:45 p.m. at the Graduate Hotel near the University of Minnesota, said police spokesman Scott Seroka.
Police declined to name the man, but acquaintances identified him as Rashad Bowman, 43, who had lived in Woodbury recently. Bowman has a felony theft conviction on his record.
At a news conference afterward, U Police Chief Matt Clark said the standoff began when police were called to the hotel to check the suspect’s welfare. For the first 24 hours they were concerned about a woman in the room with him, based on his threats and reports from family that he might have been armed.
The woman was released at midnight Tuesday, but Bowman refused to surrender. Negotiations continued peacefully until 8 a.m., when he began lighting fires in the room and “saying he was going to torch or burn down the hotel,” Clark said. “He continued to do that and threaten officers by saying that he had a firearm and was ready to use it.”
Bystanders outside the hotel shared photos and videos of a microwave oven being thrown through the window, and the man leaning his head out at one point while smoke billowed out the window.
Clark said gas munitions and flash-bangs were fired, and the suspect climbed out the window when police entered the room.
“Officers were very concerned when he was outside the window that he would fall or become seriously injured or die, so they backed off to get him to come back inside,” the chief said.
He eventually surrendered at 1:43 p.m., 38 hours after the standoff began. Reached on his cellphone by the Star Tribune about 20 minutes before his arrest, Bowman said, “I can’t talk right now.”
‘Time was on our side’
Clark said it wasn’t entirely clear why the suspect was in the hotel, but “there were a number of issues related to his family life, things in his past, the crime he was wanted for and that was part of the negotiation and discussion.”
Assistant Minneapolis Police Chief Mike Kjos acknowledged that the 38-hour duration of the standoff was “a long time for all the citizens involved.”
“But the point is to try to resolve this in a manner that everybody ended up safe. It was a contained environment, all on one floor where there wasn’t a need to rush in and cause an incident to take place,” Kjos said. “Time was on our side and it was the right decision to wait him out.”
One expert in law enforcement standoffs and other law enforcement tactics saw the logic in police taking as long as they did to move in and arrest Bowman.
Because SWAT officers generally have greater techniques and experience, “We’re likely to act slower,” said Ronal Serpas, a criminology and justice professor at Loyola University New Orleans. The former police officer has years of SWAT experience.
“If we have complete domination at the scene, you don’t have to worry about anybody getting hurt, and you don’t have to worry about any of your officers being hurt,” Serpas added, “and you don’t want to hurt the person inside. Really, waiting it out is not a bad practice.”
Facebook posts in real time
About 10 hours into the showdown with police, Bowman posted on Facebook about the 2014 suicide of his 19-year-old daughter, Alyssa Funke, writing, “I miss her soooo much” above photos of him and others with her climbing a tree.
A month after her death, Fox 9 reported that Funke, a Stillwater High School graduate who was a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, killed herself after a pornographic video went online and prompted bullying posts on social media.
One of the acquaintances who identified Bowman, Lynette Whitlock, said there is a warrant for his arrest in Arizona for printing checks. Whitlock said Bowman accused her and another woman, Nicole Cook, of stealing his exotic cat.
Whitlock said Scarlett is an African serval, and Bowman gave it to Cook so she could sell it. Whitlock said she turned over the cat on Thursday to the Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone, Minn.
Staff there said the cat had a bone disease when it was young, which is common with an improper diet. That caused fractured ribs, which healed in an abnormal position.
Bowman acquired the cat online when it was young, “but he didn’t do his research” about how to care for it, Whitlock said.
“My cats are like … my children,” he wrote on Facebook late Tuesday morning. “Hey I’m no saint but I did not allow Lynette to take my cat.”
He later posted on Facebook, “On my life and that of my deceased daughter Alyssa, get Scarlett back to where she belongs.”
Star Tribune staff writer Brandon Stahl and University of Minnesota student reporter Trevor Squire contributed to this report.