SWAT team tracks armed man to motel
By ED QUIOCO, Times Staff Writer
CLEARWATER -- A 54-year-old man armed with a stolen assault rifle caused police to evacuate a motel and close a portion of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard for about five hours early Wednesday.
Michael Nelson stayed inside his room at the Clearwater Palms Motel and refused to speak to a team of negotiators, police said. When a SWAT team entered his room at 4:10 a.m., they found that Nelson had fatally shot himself.
Clearwater police officers suspected that Nelson had stolen the rifle from his former roommate. When they verified that Nelson was staying at the motel Tuesday night, officers discreetly evacuated the people staying in rooms around him.
Then they tried to get him to come outside the room, said Clearwater police spokesman Wayne Shelor.
"He refused to talk on the phone and refused to come out," Shelor said.
About 11 p.m. Tuesday, police officers called in the SWAT team. A short time later, officers closed Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard between Duncan and Florida avenues. Traffic was routed around the scene, and there were no major backups, Shelor said.
"The reason we closed down the street right there is because he had this assault rifle," Shelor said. "He threatened no one per se at that time; nor did he fire any shots outside his room."
Nelson had lived at 2690 Drew St. with a roommate. But the two had "some friction" and Nelson moved out, only to come back and steal the rifle, Shelor said.
Police tried talking to Nelson using a bullhorn, but he never responded.
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