Joan Wilder: Journalist, Writer, Editor

Boston police defuse hostage situation

ANDOVER – A Boston man who police said shot his former wife’s boyfriend and held her hostage with her sister for nearly 11 hours yesterday put down his gun and surrendered – after authorities tricked him into believing he’d serve prison time in the Dominican Republic.

The suspect, Ruben Alberto Arias of Jamaica Plain, was charged with kidnapping and assault in the incident, which began in Fall River early yesterday and ended in Andover just before 11 a.m.

Essex District Court Judge Alan Jarasitis, noting that Arias, 34, is still facing three drug charges, ordered him held without bail pending a hearing later this month. Arias also faces charges in the alleged kidnapping in Bristol County.

Yesterday, Essex County District Attorney Kevin Burke, who was involved in the negotiations, defended the the ruse used to get Arias to surrender. Such tactics, he said, are “normal for a hostage situation, normal for what was at stake.”

Police said the incident began shortly after midnight when Arias broke into the Fall River apartment of Rosa Santana, his former wife, who has custody of their two young children.

Arias was allegedly waiting in the basement for Jose Luis Vinales, Santana’s boyfriend. Santana had other visitors in her home including her sisters, Anna Calderon, 30, and Zulma Malave, 36, and six small children.

Sometime around midnight, the power went out in Santana’s apartment, authorities said. When Calderon’s 10-year-old son, Jose, went to check a fuse in the basement, Arias, who was hiding there, put a gun to the child’s head.
“He told him to go upstairs and open the apartment door,” said Elizabeth Malave, another sister.

Inside the apartment, police said, Arias locked Zulma Malave, the boy and the rest of the children in a bedroom.
“He said, `Don’t you move cause I’ll kill you all,’ “ Elizabeth Malave said her nephew recalled. “It was a horror show, a horror show.”

Arias allegedly fired at Vinales when he saw him try to escape, authorities said, striking him once in the leg.

Vinales, speaking through a translator from his bed at St. Anne’s Hospital, last night, said Arias shot at him five times.

After the shooting, police said, Arias ordered Santana into a relative’s car and forced Anna Calderon to get behind the wheel.

Alerted by a radio bulletin, State Police Trooper Robert Fries picked up the blue 1987 Nissan Maxima on Route 24 in Raynham and pursued it, officials said.

For the next two hours police pursued the Maxima north to Route 128 and then to Route 93 – including a refueling stop at a Brockton gas station where Arias allegedly kept police at bay by holding a hostage at gunpoint.

Several times, police said, Arias opened the car door and pushed Santana’s head toward the pavement.

About 2 a.m., Sgt. Stephen Pugsley, a State Police negotiator, joined the pursuit and talked with Arias by cell phone.

“He kept saying he was going to kill the women and then himself,” Pugsley said, adding that he saw Arias cut off handfuls of Santana’s hair. “My focus was to find out what was important to him and to get him to stay on the highway.”

The car eluded a police roadblock about an hour later, but stopped at a Getty gas station three miles up the highway, still keeping police at bay. Then, Pugsley said, he passed Arias a hostage telephone and began an intense series of negotiations for his surrender.

“The key was his children,” Pugsley said. “I convinced him that even if he ended up in jail, at least he would be able to watch them grow up, that they could come visit him there.”

By 10 a.m. Arias told Pugsley what he wanted – including a demand that, if convicted, he serve no more than 10 years in prison, to be served in his native Dominican Republic and assurances that his mother would get custody of his children.

Within half an hour, a letter guaranteeing it was passed to him, signed by Michael Sherman, a fictional Essex judge, police said. Arias then asked for an attorney, and Burke presented himself as one – but didn’t tell him he was the county prosecutor.

“I was careful that I didn’t say anything that was a lie,” Burke said. “I told him the letter carried the force of the judge who signed it.”

At 10:45 a.m. Arias released the two women to a waiting ambulance, then gave up his loaded 9mm Glock pistol and was placed under arrest.

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