Police catch fugitive atop crane with drink

Sunday, May 29, 2005

ATLANTA -- After 56 hours teetering atop a construction crane, Carl Edward Roland was done in by his thirst.

Roland, a homicide suspect being sought by authorities in Florida, reached out early Saturday for a drink of water offered by police. Roland inched close enough to officers that a SWAT team member was able to subdue him with a quick shot from a stun gun, ending a standoff that began Wednesday.

"Apparently, he was thirsty," Sgt. John Quigley said.

Roland was lowered safely to the ground and taken to a hospital, allowing a return to normalcy for the businesses and residents whose lives and livelihoods were disrupted by the spectacle over their neighborhood north of downtown Atlanta.

At Nava, an upscale Southwestern eatery, beverage manager Stephen Pouleris was among those glad to be rid of the drama.

"Now it's back to the other circus show in Buckhead," he said of the area where thousands of locals and tourists flock to rows of nightclubs and restaurants.

Roland, 41, climbed the 18-story-high crane Wednesday evening and told police he was thinking of killing himself by jumping, authorities said.

Roland was wanted in Pinellas County, Fla., in the death of ex-girlfriend Jennifer L. Gonzalez, 36, whose body was found Tuesday. An arrest warrant affidavit accuses Roland of strangling Gonzalez and dumping her body in a pond behind the apartment complex where she lived.

The confrontation brought Buckhead to a standstill for more than two days, shutting down Peachtree Road, the main drag through the district, disrupting traffic and providing free entertainment.

Lunch and dinner crowds packed restaurant patios that offered clear views of the crane.

Some complained that the spectacle hurt business, but Pouleris said the scene itself was never what threatened business at the busy restaurant.

"The media saying, 'Stay away from Buckhead' was more detrimental," Pouleris said.

Officials at Grady Memorial Hospital said Roland was in good condition Saturday, but doctors were monitoring him. Police expected to charge him with crimes in Atlanta in addition to the Florida charges.

Pinellas County authorities were in Atlanta when Roland was arrested, and Assistant Police Chief Alan Dreher said he expected them to begin the extradition process soon.

During the early negotiations while police tried to talk him down from his perch, Roland had refused offers of food and water but accepted a jacket that he used for protection from the chill at night and the sun during the day.

A Thursday attempt by his younger sister, Tiwana Allen, to talk him down also was futile. She was not allowed to go up on the crane, so she borrowed a mirror and tried to get his attention by flashing sunlight at him and shouting "Sugarfoot, it's your baby sister!"

Dreher said Roland showed mixed emotions during negotiations, but he chose not to speak to any of his family members after his arrest.

"At times he was calm. At times he was cordial. At times he was irate. At times he was argumentative. It just depended on the situation," he said.

Since March, the Clearwater, Fla., man had quit his job as a software salesman, filed for bankruptcy and talked about moving to Las Vegas, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times reported Friday. He had also talked about getting back together with Gonzalez.

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