Santa Monica pier evacuated after man claimed he was carrying a bomb

A false bomb threat caused a rescue mission of people stuck on the 130-foot Santa Monica Ferris wheel

Amelia Neath
Wednesday 11 October 2023 05:35 EDT
Man climbs on Santa Monica Pier Ferris Wheel

The Santa Monica pier was evacuated after a man scaled the famous Ferris wheel and claimed he was armed with a bomb.

Juan Gonzalez, 37, was carrying a backpack and climbed up the wheel on Monday afternoon, while several revellers were enjoying the iconic ride, the Santa Monica Police Department confirmed in a statement on X.

Police said that officers were called to the scene at 2.35pm to respond to a “distraught male subject” climbing approximately two-thirds up the wheel.

He allegedly told witnesses that he was carrying a bomb with him, sparking an emergency evacuation of the ride, pier and the entire Pacific Park amusement park.

Firefighters rescued people, including small children, one by one stuck from the wheel gondolas, as the suspect positioned himself in the centre of the 130-foot tall ride holding onto the structure.

Police later said that there were approximately 10 riders still in the gondolas when the wheel was stopped, as Mr Gonzales was in the middle of its support structure.

A KTLA helicopter captured firefighters using a cherry picker to help the people on the wheen to safety.

While officers evacuated the area, a Crisis Negotiation Team contacted the man who appeared to be “in crisis”, police said.

As the team started to talk Mr Gonzalez down to the Pier deck, he was “very agitated and upset and continued to make bomb threats to the officers negotiating with him,” police said in an update.

Police said that the man was shouting at officers below but they could not make out what he was saying due to outside noise, CBS reported.

The negotiatons lasted around an hour before Mr Gonzalez climbed down low enough for officers to take him into custody.

At around 4.30pm, police confirmed on X that the man was no longer on the Ferris wheel and had been arrested.

The pier opened soon after as police confirmed that no bomb or incendiary device had been located.

The Santa Monica Ferris wheel was evacuated after a man threatened to have a bomb as he climbed up the ride

Lieutenant Erika Aklufi told the Los Angeles Times that officers had to work on the assumption that he did have an explosive device.

“Out of an abundance of caution we’re going to act as if he does [have a bomb] until we can prove that he doesn’t,” she said.

Due to the bomb threats he made both to the public and to officers on the scene, Mr Gonzalez was arrested for criminal threats, making a false bomb threat to authorities, and resisting arrest.

Before he was taken to Santa Monica Jail, the on-scene firefighters evaluated him.

In a statement, Pacific Park said it “reopened to visitors upon receiving an all-clear status” after “guest and employee evacuation procedures were initiated due to an unknown individual in a restricted area at the Ferris wheel”.

Pacific Park also thanked police “for their speedy response, direction and leadership”.

Police said that Mr Gonzalez was taken to the Santa Monica Jail for booking.

Now, the charges will be presented to the district attorney’s office.

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