Monday, March 22, 2010

Dad takes son hostage in motel standoff (Rohnert Park, California)

Dad MARTIN MINOLETTI, who has a "history of instability," took his adult son hostage at a motel, prompting a 6 1/2 hour standoff with local police. Not surprisingly, Dad has "a history of violent threats against family."

Son diffuses dad's hotel standoff
Ukiah man uses Facebook alert to help end hostage situation in Rohnert Park


Published: Saturday, March 20, 2010 at 4:03 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 20, 2010 at 4:03 a.m.

A 21-year-old Ukiah man whose Facebook posting about being held hostage by "an insane man" prompted scores of law enforcement officers to converge on a Motel 6 early Friday was rescued unharmed after a 6½-hour standoff.

Police and sheriff's deputies, complete with armored personnel carrier and mobile command posts, had assembled outside the Motel 6 on Commerce Boulevard in Rohnert Park in preparation for the worst.

But Miles Minoletti and his father, Martin Minoletti, 47, walked out with their hands up shortly before 9 a.m. Friday.

Martin Minoletti, wanted on outstanding warrants in Mendocino County, was immediately taken into custody, Rohnert Park Public Safety Lt. Jeff Taylor said.

During an interview Friday afternoon, Miles Minoletti said his father a day earlier had turned up unwelcomed at the Ukiah home of Martin's estranged sister, taken her gun and indicated he intended to wait for her to come home.

Police later said they had found the .357 Magnum gun believed to be the sister's weapon in the motel room.

"I didn't want him to do anything with it that he would regret later, and I didn't want my aunt to die, and I had to do something to prevent that from happening," said Miles Minoletti, who lives at the Ukiah home most of the time.

He said he knew his father was angry enough that he might take it out on anyone, including his own son, but said he couldn't figure out how to contact police without his father knowing and the situation escalating.

So they drove south, and Miles Minoletti booked them a room at the Motel 6. When it appeared his father was sleeping, he used his computer to post a Facebook note saying he was being held hostage that he later admitted was somewhat "melodramatic."

He said his father instructed him what to say to a hostage negotiator who began calling in the early morning hours, including telling authorities he had to sleep and hanging up mid-conversation.

Miles Minoletti said he simply wanted a peaceful resolution to the situation but feared the longer it went the more likely there would be gunfire.

For Miles Minoletti's mother and stepfather, Linda and Greg Reynolds of Colorado Springs, Colo., it was a nightmare that began with a 1:30 a.m. phone call from a relative who'd seen the disturbing post on their son's Facebook page about being held hostage.

"It was actually a goodbye message," Greg Reynolds said. "It basically said on the note that he did not expect to be alive this morning."

It took but a moment for the Reynolds to determine that the "insane man" was Martin Minoletti, they said.

He has a history of instability and has made violent threats toward family in the past. They assumed, Greg Reynolds said, that he "had snapped."

Desperate to help their son, they tracked him down at the Motel 6 by checking online accounts for a jointly held credit card.

They called Rohnert Park police, who enlisted the help of a Petaluma police hostage negotiator.

When Miles Minoletti terminated contact with the negotiator, Rohnert Park police sought assistance from the tactical team of the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office.

At full deployment, it involves about 45 people, including a SWAT team, the bomb squad, a trained dog, a remote robot, mobile communications equipment and a technical crew, said Lt. Greg Miller, who supervises the team.

Police already had evacuated the motel and closed down three nearby restaurants and cordoned off the entire commercial area on the northwest corner of Rohnert Park Expressway and Commerce Boulevard.

Shortly before 9 a.m., after one last bid by a sheriff's hostage negotiator, both men exited the room.

"They came out with their hands up," Taylor said.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.