ALEXANDRIA, Va. – After 20 hours, a standoff between police and an armed man holding his son hostage ended Wednesday with officers fatally shooting the suspect when he threatened them with a gun.
"The child is fine," said Capt. John Crawford, an Alexandria Police (search) spokesman. After the shooting, officers stormed the house to rescue the 9-year-old.
"When you come out of a house armed with a handgun, we don't have the luxury of waiting to see if you're acting irrationally or if you're going to pull that trigger," Crawford said.
Although suspect Lewis Barber (search), 48, did not shoot, the officers did. Barber died about 45 minutes later at a hospital.
The late afternoon gunfire ended a standoff that began Tuesday night. Authorities said Barber grabbed the boy at gunpoint as the child and his mother were leaving a restaurant on King Street. He then took the boy to the family's home on West Wyatt Avenue, in the city's Del Ray (search) section, and held police at bay.
"It was obviously of great concern to me — you never know how these things turn out, and this was a life or death situation," said Joseph Cerquoni, 55, whose backyard backs up to houses on Barber's block. Police used Cerquoni's dining room as a staging area for hostage negotiators, after a friend on the Alexandria force asked.
Unlike other residents who were evacuated to a nearby school for the night, Cerquoni and his wife were not allowed to leave, though police escorted them out briefly to return a dog they were watching for a neighbor.
Police said Barber's wife and son had moved out of the home on Saturday.
Court documents reveal past allegations of violent threats by Barber. His estranged wife, Robin, filed a protective order against him Friday. She said he has a drinking problem and several guns, and she was worried about her safety.
The court papers also reveal Robin Barber tried to leave her husband in 1998, but he went to the attic and fired two shots. No one was hurt.
Lewis Barber filed a defense motion Tuesday in which he said all his weapons are Civil War or Revolutionary War re-enactment pieces. He accused his wife of carrying a pistol.
As for the drinking, he wrote, "That's a lie." In his filing, Barber dots the 'i' in his wife's name with a heart.
The two were due in an Alexandria court next month.
Two of Barber's longtime friends, George Calloway, 56, of Clinton, Md., and Chris Robinson, 55, of Baltimore, said they heard news reports about the standoff and were determined to talk their friend out the situation. They arrived a half hour too late.
"We felt we could talk him out of whatever he had in mind," Calloway said. "We could have talked him out of there without being shot."
Barber, they said, was a youth baseball coach, president of Carpenter's Union Local 1665, a former Army paratrooper and a regular churchgoer. They said he lost a young son to brain cancer at least 15 years ago.
"If he never resolved it, and now he thought he was going to lose this son, he probably didn't want to live anymore," Calloway said.