Gunman barricaded in SoCal tribal gaming office

Elliot Spagat, Associated Press Writer
12/31/09

LAKESIDE, Calif. – A man who was fired from his job at the Barona Resort and Casino last month burst into the tribal gaming commission’s security office with a gun Dec. 29 and reportedly fired shots before barricading himself inside, authorities said.

It was unknown if anyone was hurt or any hostages remained, said San Diego County sheriff’s spokeswoman Jan Caldwell.

She identified the man as Donnell Roberts, 38, of El Cajon, who was fired from a security job with the tribal gaming
commission and was previously a casino guard. There was no phone number or an address listed for a Donnell Roberts in
El Cajon.

The 10 a.m. shooting did not take place in the casino section of the popular resort 30 miles northeast of downtown San Diego.

Roberts walked in and ordered three secretaries to leave, and witnesses heard three shots, Caldwell said.

Sheriff’s Lt. Julie Sutton said Roberts reportedly took several people hostage when he arrived at the office, but he quickly let them go.

About 15 people left the building, Caldwell said. Sheriff’s deputies, California Highway Patrol officers and tribal police surrounded the building where Roberts was believed holed up. FBI agents also arrived.

By early afternoon authorities had yet to establish contact with him, Caldwell said.

The casino’s general manager, Rick Salinas, said the casino remained open but the gaming commission offices, where about 25 people work, were evacuated.

Salinas said he didn’t know why Roberts was fired from the commission, which functions as the tribe’s regulator of its casino.

Roberts was one of several regulators working for the commission, he said.

“He was a professional, he did his job, and from my understanding he did it well,” Salinas said.

The general manager said he hugged several commission employees.

“They’re all pretty shaken up,” he said.

The resort, which includes a 400-room hotel, golf course and spa, is operated by the Barona Band of Mission Indians, which is recognized by the federal government as a sovereign Indian nation.

The tribe bought the reservation property in 1932 after its original reservation land was used to build a reservoir. Tribal gaming began there in 1994 with the opening of the Barona Casino Big Top.

The gaming commission offices are located in trailers or bungalow-type buildings behind the casino.

The five-member gaming commission meets about three times a week, said Sheilla Alvarez, director of government affairs for the tribe.

Commission members are not all tribal members but they are employees of the tribal government, Salinas said.

“They are responsible for ensuring that the management team is complying with all regulations.”

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