PORTLAND, Oregon — Rodriguez Auto Repair was quiet on Wednesday — no work was getting done on Miguel Sanchez’s Mini Cooper. Outside the garage, just off Southeast 82nd Avenue on Lambert Street, there was visible damage to other cars. Shop owner Alonso Rodriguez counted up the bullet holes from police guns fired Tuesday night.
According to the Portland Police Bureau, officers fired at 49-year-old Robert Connelly, seen in security video armed and running from police into the auto shop garage.
Security video confirms what police said in a statement, that Connelly threatened them with a handgun and they fired on him, although they didn't hit him.
Fortunately, shop owner Rodriguez and a friend were able to escape the garage to safety.
But Miguel Sanchez, inside waiting for his Mini Cooper to be finished, was none the wiser as the suspect ran into the shop.
With earbuds in, Sanchez said he didn't hear the gunfire at first. When it did eventually get his attention, he got up and moved to a kitchen area within the shop.
While Sanchez hid in a tight little spot under a counter in the corner, he pondered what felt like his only option, saying he thought, “I have to kill this guy because if I don’t, he's gonna kill me.”
At that time, Sanchez said Connelly was kicking holes in the walls, trying to escape. Then the suspect and hostage met.
“And I looked, and he looked, and we locked eyes — and I thought, ‘Oh man I’m dead,’" Sanchez said. "And he said, ‘Come on man, I’m not going to hurt you.'”
For the next few hours, while police crisis negotiators and PPB's tactical team responded, Sanchez said he was inside talking to Connelly. And despite the suspect smoking unidentified drugs from a pipe and saying "he was ready to die," Sanchez said that Connelly listened when he shared his faith and talked about forgiveness.
Sanchez said that he told the suspect, “I don't care what you did today, I'm not concerned about what you've done in your life, but He's willing to forgive you and you walk out alive from here. But if you don't, you walk out there and they shoot you, you go straight to hell and you will pay for eternity.”
A heroic act of tough love and kindness helped get Connelly to surrender peacefully.
“He said, ‘OK I'm ready.’ I said, 'God bless you bro, you're gonna be ok.' So he opened the door and showed them his hands and then he followed their instructions. And then I sat on the chair and just started bawling and praying — it went from wanting to kill this man to so much compassion, I can see pain in his eyes,” said Sanchez.
It's the outcome Sanchez wanted for both suspect and hostage.
“I wanted to make sure that I’d go home to see my grandkids and my kids and my family, that was my whole intention.”
Police arrested Connelly on several outstanding warrants connected to gun crimes and sex abuse charges. No one was injured during the incident, according to PPB.
Connelly was also booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center on charges of burglary in the first degree, three counts of menacing with a firearm, three counts of unlawful use of a weapon, escape in the second degree and felon in possession of a firearm.
The Portland Police Homicide Unit is investigating. Adhering to the use of force review process, PPB will conduct an internal review of the incident and the case will go before the Police Review Board.