Neighbors watch as suspect barricades himself in house

MIDDLETOWN — Scott Nester wondered why a police helicopter was hovering over his house Wednesday afternoon.

He’d just seen two police cars speed down Marl Pit Road with their emergency lights flashing just before 2 p.m. and figured there was an accident nearby.

It became obvious, though, that something far worse was happening.

“More and more cop cars kept coming and then I saw them closing down the road,” Nester said.

A reverse 911 call filled in the details — an armed standoff with a barricaded suspect inside a Brick Mill Farms home across the road meant all residents should stay inside for safety. Mr. Nester took a call from his concerned spouse Stephanie who was at work, and turned on the television to monitor the story developing nearby.

Several vehicles merge into one lane on Del. 299 in Middletown while approaching closed Brick Mill Road on Wednesday afternoon. Police closed the road in pursuit of the suspect to his Middletown home. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

At some point, the startled man said officers emerged from unmarked police cars to get “long guns, vests and helmets” out of their vehicles and rush into the neighborhood.

Just before 6:30 p.m., Mr. Nester said the helicopter was still overhead as the situation in the 500 block of St. Michaels Drive continued.

At 6:45 p.m., Mr. Nester heard “lots of shooting and shouting” and said police had brought in light stands to illuminate the area.

According to Mr. Nester, one of his sons heard there were an estimated 200 police officers surrounding the home with a suspect inside.

The thought of Brick Mill Farms, considered an upscale, peaceful neighborhood, Mr. Nester said, partially under siege seemed surreal.

“It’s not something you’d ever expect to see there,” he said. “The whole situation is just a shame.”

As of Thursday morning, police continued negotiations with the suspect and residents remained evacuated from the Brick Mill Farms neighborhood.

Delaware State Police said early Thursday that The Odessa Fire Company, located at 304 Main St. in Odessa, has opened its facility to temporarily house the evacuated residents of Brick Mill Farms while allied police agencies continue to negotiate with the armed barricaded subject.

Around Middletown, Odessa and Townsend on Wednesday as the event unfolded, all Appoquinimink School District schools were placed on lockdown from approximately 2:16 p.m. to 3:01 p.m. Appoquinimink schools resumed as normal Thursday.

When they re-opened, elementary school buses were 30 to 45 minutes behind typical schedule, while walkers and car riders were dismissed at their regular times.

Buses first picked up and delivered high school and middle school students before returning to elementary school to transport first- through fifth-graders.

Initially the Appoquinimink School District notified parents and staff via e-mail and phone that police were reporting an armed person at the Dove Run Shopping Center and the intersection of Del. 299 (Middletown Odessa Road) and Brick Mill Road, a short distance from the Brick Mill Farms development. The message indicated that police had set up a perimeter and all schools were locked down.

Bunker Hill Elementary School students returning by bus from a field trip were diverted to the Marion E. Profitt Training Center in Odessa. The district informed parents that police had blocked access to the school areas.

The district updated its original message 24 minutes later, noting the Dove Run Shopping Center information had not been confirmed, but school’s were operating under the assumption that an armed individual was in the vicinity. Buses were delayed until further notice and all after school activities were canceled except for a school board workshop.

Just after 3 p.m., the school district announced that police gave the OK to lift the lockdown.

Brick Mill Road heading to Brick Mill Farms was closed between Del. 299 and Marl Pit Road, which caused a long traffic backup that stretched onto Del. 1 southbound and involved dozens of vehicles at 4 p.m.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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