By CARY ASHBY
Reflector Staff Writer
COLLINS - The Huron County Sheriff’s Office pursued a Wakeman man all the way to his late grandmother’s house Monday night.
But authorities apparently came up short in their bid to apprehend Gerald J. Hunter, the suspect who is wanted in connection with an aggravated menacing complaint.
Six members of the special response team (SRT), Sheriff Dane Howard and Capt. Bob McLaughlin converged at 4507 Hartland Center Road just before 8 p.m. in hopes of arresting Hunter.
The SRT was assembled and used because of a previous incident at Hunter’s 24 Cooper St. home when he was reportedly suicidal and held his girlfriend hostage, Howard said.
Deputies attempted to arrest Hunter earlier Monday night, but he fled into a home, Howard said. A tipster was fairly certain Hunter, 28, was inside the now abandoned house near the Mulberry Street intersection, the sheriff said.
Surrounding the house when the SRT van, Howard and McLaughlin arrived were two canine units, three sheriff’s cruisers and a marked sport utility vehicle. The SRT members entered a door on the house on the south side at 7:56 p.m.
“They’re going to work the house real slow,” Howard said soon afterward. “Hopefully we’ll know real soon if he’s here.”
At 8:13 p.m., a thunderous bang — later determined to be a flash bang, which authorities use to distract suspects — emanated from inside the run-down house.
A short time later, smoke poured from a second-floor window directly above where the SRT members entered about 15 minutes earlier. Residual smoke was visible more than 20 minutes after the noise.
Just before 8:30 p.m., Howard said Hunter “may not be in there.”
“We’ll see,” he added.
Officers often gestured to the house as they talked and conferred after the tactical squad exited through the same door.
About 8:45 p.m., one SRT member climbed onto the roof of the house to the south of 4507 Hartland Center Road. When Howard asked if he saw anything inside the grandmother’s house, the officer shook his head and made a cutting motion at his throat.
A Townsend Township firefighter brought a thermal imager to the scene about 8:55 p.m. to assist the SRT with searching the house.
A Huron County Jail corrections officer said Hunter wasn’t in custody about 1 1/2 hours later.
On Thursday, Norwalk Municipal Judge John Ridge ordered felony charges of abduction and inducing panic stemming from a May 10 incident be transferred to Huron County Common Pleas Court. That means a grand jury could indict Hunter at some point.
Hunter was taken into custody after about 1 1/2 hours of negotiation with Howard during the May 10 stand-off at his Wakeman home. Hunter would only speak to the sheriff — who was a hostage negotiator as a detective — despite having two SRT hostage negotiators at the scene.
A Wakeman officer originally went to Hunter’s home to check on his well-being after Perkins Township police said Hunter threatened to shoot a doctor when he couldn’t get his pain medication. The doctor wasn’t in the office at the time.
The officer saw Hunter on his front porch with a gun, Wakeman Police Chief Tim Hunker said earlier. He also noted Hunter’s girlfriend overheard him tell a doctor’s office worker he was considering harming himself.
The suspect eventually left his home unarmed with his hands up after all the officers backed off by 10 to 20 yards.