-A A +A

Local man barricades himself for 19 hours before being subdued by police

By Carol A. Clark

Los Alamos Police have successfully concluded negotiations with a local man who had barricaded himself inside a residence at 1350 Bathtub Row.


Officers staked out the home and apprehended Richard Morse when he exited to dispose of his trash at a receptacle in his front yard at about noon today.

Morse, 75, is a former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist who worked on the W-76 thermonuclear warhead in the 1970s and 1980s. He has been a longtime critic of the weapon saying a design flaw involving a "too thin casing," made it unstable.

Police officials said Morse had been armed Wednesday afternoon and had made threats against them, but that no shots were fired since the situation began unfolding at about 5 p.m. Morse was wanted on an arrest warrant for failure to appear.

A State Police tactical unit was on the scene for much of the night attempting to get the man to surrender. However, Chief Wayne Torpy said that local officers took over this morning and were in the process of talking with the man via telephone in an effort to bring the standoff to a peaceful conclusion.

“As long as the public was safe, we felt it was important to exercise patience in the hopes of bringing the situation to a successful completion without anyone getting hurt,” Torpy said at the scene this morning. “We were finally able to communicate with Mr. Morse and continued to do so in an effort to convince him to surrender.”

Police said Morse refused to communicate overnight, so just before daybreak they used a remote control robot to drop a cell phone through a window of the home.

As of mid-morning, the man remained holed-up in the residence. He did begin to speak with police by telephone but continued to remain in his home.

Torpy said police brought in additional assistance to provide relief to some of the officers who had been on the scene since Wednesday.
Torpy, Deputy Chief Kevin Purtymun and other officers worked out of a command center throughout the duration of the standoff.

Police advised people to avoid the Bathtub Row area throughout the ordeal because they had cordoned off the road.

The homes along Bathtub Row are among the most historic in Los Alamos.

“With very few exceptions, new housing in Los Alamos was built with showers but no bathtub. Because of the scarcity of iron during the early phases of the war, Congress had limited the types of bathroom fixtures that could be included in new construction, thus tubs were not permitted. It soon became obvious to all residents that the only persons who could enjoy the luxury of a bath were the families living in the former masters’ cottages.

"The homes soon became known as ‘Bathtub Row,’ an affectionate term still used today,” according to information on the Los Alamos Historical Society’s Web site.

For updates on this story, be sure to check the Monitor Web site at www.lamonitor.com.