Sep 26, 2013 9:12 PM by Connie Tran, KSBY News

Flash bang device used to apprehend and arrest Atascadero man, startles neighbors in early morning

Some residents in Atascadero were woken by a loud bang early Thursday morning. It was the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office using an explosive device known as a flash bang diversion device or a stun grenade, to apprehend and arrest a man with felony warrants.

Sheriff's deputies arrested 38-year old Marc Steele of Atascadero around 5am. He was arrested at his home on the 7000 block of Portola Road. The explosion startled his neighbors, but Sheriff's officials said they needed to use it.

"It was actually very, very scary in the beginning. But once, you know, I guess it's probably more scary because being awoken you know, 4:45 am, 5 o'clock in the morning, that way, can be scary. Then the helicopter and the lights and they're talking through the helicopter, 'stay in your house!'" said Vanessa Mylan, a resident of Atascadero, whose house is two doors down from Steele's.

Sheriff's officials said Steele had three felony warrants against him, including assault with a deadly weapon. After authorities said he failed to appear in court a few weeks ago, another warrant was out for his arrest. The Sheriff's Office considered him armed and dangerous.

Tony Cipolla, the public information officer for the Sheriff's Office said, "He had already had a previous attempt at intentionally ramming a patrol deputy's vehicle. And so we were, you know, concerned about that. He had damaged the vehicle. He had injured the deputy."

That deputy suffered neck injuries, said Cipolla.

Cipolla said the flash bang was used to distract and disorient Steele so that the Sheriff's SED (Special Enforcement Detail) Team, which is also their SWAT Team, could apprehend and arrest and avoid any kind of armed conflict.

"And so it's done for the safety of the deputies. It's done for the safety of the residents, and it's also done for the safety of the suspect," said Cipolla.

Mylan understands why Sheriff's deputies had to use the flash bang device, but said she hopes to never have to experience a morning like Thursday again.

She said, "Initially I was, you know, why did they feel the need to wake up our neighborhood that way. But then after thinking about it, you know, it comes back and they've gotta do their job, they gotta do their job the best way that's safe for us and for them."

On top of being armed and dangerous, Sheriff's officials said Steele also had a video surveillance system at his home. They said they took all of that into consideration when they planned on using the flash bang device.

Steele was arrested without incident and booked into county jail on Thursday morning. His charges include failure to appear in court, possession of a firearm, and possession of drugs.



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