Suspect Discharges Police Rifle, Barricades Himself in Garden Grove Patrol Car After Evaluation by Mental Health Worker

A patient at a mental health facility in Garden Grove was taken into custody after barricading himself in a patrol car and firing a single round from a police-issued rifle that was inside the vehicle, prompting an hourslong standoff, authorities said Wednesday.

Police cars parked near where the hourslong standoff with an armed man in a police vehicle occurred. (Credit: KTLA)

Police cars parked near where the hourslong standoff with an armed man in a police vehicle occurred. (Credit: KTLA)

The incident began about 9:25 p.m. Tuesday, when police were called for help with a patient at Morningside Recovery, a drug and alcohol treatment center in the 9000 block of 13th Street. When officers arrived, a mental health worker at the facility asked them to wait while he did an evaluation of the patient, according to a Garden Grove Police Department news release.

The worker determined the man needed to go to another facility and called for an ambulance. During the wait for the ambulance, the patient was placed in the back of a patrol car.

He wasn't under arrest and wasn't handcuffed, police said.

But while in the car, the man was able to get into the front of the vehicle and get ahold of a semi-automatic patrol rifle. Police ordered him to put it down, but he fired a round through the windshield of the car.

“We don’t why the rifle (was discharged) – if it was not locked in there properly or somehow he hit the release button and was able to release the rifle from the locking mechanism in the front," Garden Grove police Lt. Carl Whitney said.

After the gunshot, an hourslong standoff began.

Police surrounded the car with three armored vehicles and shut down Brookhurst Street between Westminster Boulevard and Hazard Avenue. Officers shot out the street lights with non-lethal rounds to gain a tactical advantage, Whitney said.

Crisis negotiators and a SWAT team were sent to the scene to negotiate with the man. The man finally surrendered to police around 12:40 a.m. Wednesday.

He was identified by police as 33-year-old Stephen Matthews of New York.  He was arrested on suspicion of discharging the weapon and was booked at Orange County Jail.

Police plan to investigate how Matthews was able to gain access to the rifle.