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Police Demolish House During 16-Hour Gunfight With Barricaded Fugitive

Kalamazoo, MI – Kalamazoo police systematically removed the walls of a home in an effort to end a 16-hour standoff with an attempted homicide suspect on Monday.

The chain of events leading to the standoff began on Nov. 1, when 35-year-old Alex Rawls allegedly shot his ex-girlfriend’s sister, WOOD reported.

Investigators said the woman, who was shot in the back, suffered seven gunshot wounds in the attack.

Rawls also allegedly fired 17 rounds into a nearby home after shooting the victim, WOOD reported.

The woman survived the attack but remained in critical condition, according to WWMT.

Investigators obtained a warrant for Rawls’ arrest on Nov. 3, but his whereabouts were initially unknown.

He allegedly threatened to shoot the victim, her family, and law enforcement officers after the attack, WEAR reported.

Rawls, who had three prior domestic violence convictions, also had a separate arrest warrant out for a domestic violence for allegedly punching a woman multiple times on Oct. 24, according to WWMT.

Rawls was also on probation at the time of the standoff due to having been convicted of assaulting, resisting, and obstructing a police officer and third-degree home invasion in 2019, MLive reported.

Police tracked him to a home on Washington Avenue near Division Street on Nov. 8, according to WOOD.

When officers went to apprehend the wanted suspect, he refused to comply and a standoff ensued, according to police.

Officers used a loudspeaker and attempted to negotiate with him, but he refused to surrender even after his family came to the scene and begged him to give up, WOOD reported.

Rawls allegedly fired multiple rounds at officers at approximately 12 p.m., according to police.

Investigators said he was using a semi-automatic rifle.

Officers launched “non-lethal agents” into the home on multiple occasions as the afternoon progressed into the evening, WOOD reported.

They began opening the windows and doors of the home at about 6:10 p.m.

Less than a half hour later, Rawls opened fire on them yet again, according to police.

A SWAT team proceeded to tear down the walls of the home in order to allow a drone to get a visual on the gunman.

Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety (KDPS) Chief Vernon Coakley explained on Thursday that by removing support structures on the first floor, officers created an opening to Rawls’ second-floor location, WOOD reported.

Rawls started shooting again at police again at 9:40 p.m.

Investigators used at least 50 sets of chemical agents during the course of the 16-hour standoff, Chief Coakley told reporters.

Shortly before 3 a.m. on Tuesday morning, Rawls started shooting at police and an armored vehicle, WOOD reported.

A Kalamazoo County sheriff’s deputy and a KDPS officer returned fire and wounded the suspect.

The officers said they watched as Rawls then fatally shot himself, Chief Coakley said.

Police found Rawls dead inside the house minutes later.

No law enforcement officers were hit by gunfire during the incident, but a Kalamazoo County deputy was injured by flying glass due to a bullet hitting a window, WOOD reported.

He is recovering at home.

Chief Coakley explained during the press conference on Thursday that the damage to the first-floor supports rendered the home unsafe, WOOD reported.

Consequently, the structure was torn down.

Chief Coakley said Rawls left officers no choice.

“I will not send my officers into a hail of gunfire,” he said, according to WOOD. “While it’s unfortunate that damage was caused to this home, we prioritize lives before property. Property is always secondary to human life.”

“Everything done by law enforcement was to avoid the outcome of further injury or loss of life,” he said. “The top priority of law enforcement is to keep the community safe. We are always concerned about the people around us.”

The chief said the property owner, Gary Apps, will be paid fair market value for the now-demolished home.

The family of seven that was living at the house has been relocated to another residence by the landlord and will also be paid fair market value for their belongings, WOOD reported.

Apps said the woman who was renting the home told him Rawls was a friend of her boyfriend, and that he had been sleeping on the couch since Nov. 2, according to the news outlet.

It is unclear whether or not the renter knew Rawls was wanted for attempted homicide when she allowed him to stay at her residence.

Kalamazoo Mayor David Anderson vowed to make sure the family who was renting the home have everything they need to move forward, WOOD reported.

“It is our commitment that this family will seamlessly be able to move to a new housing situation, would be able to have what they need to successfully occupy a new residence,” Anderson said during the press conference.

The officer and deputy who returned fire during the standoff have been placed on administrative leave while the investigation continues, as per protocol.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin


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