Santa Monica detectives are investigating the suspected suicide of a 48-year-old man who tied up and held his 15-year-old son and 86-year-old mother-in-law hostage in the 2900 block of Delaware Avenue Tuesday night.
The son dialed 911 just before 5 pm Tuesday, telling the operator he and his grandmother had been tied up and taken hostage at gunpoint by his father John Carroll Lowery, according to Santa Monica Police Department Sgt. Richard Lewis.
“We responded, set a perimeter around the house, and started to communicate with the guy who was clearly depressed, despondent, and suicidal,” Lewis said. “Based on the conversations, he was depressed and despondent over his relationship and issues with his wife, which is the child’s mother.”
The suspect's wife wasn't home at the time.
The son was able to escape from the single story home unharmed to make the 911 call.
The SMPD’s SWAT team and crisis negotiators were assisted by members of the Beverly Hills Police Department and the Santa Monica Fire Department.
Lewis said the suspect allowed its crisis negotiators to speak with his mother-in-law -- she was able to tell officers she was not injured.
“At one point she was tied up and couldn’t walk out the house,” he said. “Within a couple of hours, he had untied her and the next time we talked to her she said 'yes, she could walk out.' Then within a few minutes they were able to get her to walk on out.”
With the mother-in-law out of harm's way at about 10 pm, police negotiators continued to talk with the suspect.
At about midnight, Lewis said the suspect stopped communicating with them.
“The SWAT team employed tactics to get his attention,” he said. “When that failed, they deployed gas into the house to see if he would come outside."
When that option didn’t work, Lewis said the SWAT team made entry at about 4:30 am and located the suspect in one of the bedrooms.
"He was deceased from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head,” Lewis said.
Next door neighbor Terell Jolivitte has lived in the same house for 46 years.
She said she grew up with the suspect’s wife Wendy, who was also born and raised in their side-by-side homes, adding Wendy married John after high school and he moved into the home about 16 years ago.
Jolivitte said she never thought he was capable of killing himself.
“He would come over and talk to me everyday about marital problems and he had a few problems of his own,” she said. “Never in my whole life did I think he would do something like this.”
Jolivitte said she talked to him Tuesday afternoon at about 2 pm or 3 pm -- just hours before the hostage situation began -- and she said he seemed normal.
“Earlier in the day at about 9 am he was supposed to fix a friend’s motorcycle, and the guy had already paid him $22 or something,” she said. “The guy was outside their house and said ‘forget it, I want my money back.’ That’s when Wendy came out and gave the money back, that’s when they started arguing, there was a big fight over that. They went back into the house and I thought everything was okay.”
Jolivitte said John experienced a brain aneurism two years ago and had also turned to drugs. She said he was also out of a job.
“You never know what’s going on behind closed doors, but I’ve never heard anything," she said. "I don’t know what triggered John, I wish I could have talked to him before he did something like this.”
Lewis said SMPD detectives from the robbery homicide division were investigating.
The LA County Coroner's office removed the body at about 8:30 am Wednesday.
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