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Scared Big 5 hostage kept suspect calm
Allyson Taylor just wanted to help the man with the gun.
"I think he was just scared," Taylor said Monday. "I honestly feel like he just wanted to die. I don't think his intentions were to hurt anyone other than himself."
The 18-year-old Yuba City girl was taken hostage on Sunday along with her co-worker, Mathew Rasul, while working at Big 5 Sports on Colusa Avenue. Rasul could not be reached for comment on Monday.
Yuba City police arrested Juan Carlos Alvarez, 29, after a four-hour standoff ended peacefully.
Taylor was working the register when she said the man police have identified as Alvarez entered the store and fired a round from a semi-automatic handgun into the ceiling.
"I just thought, 'Oh my God, I'm going to die," Taylor recalled.
The gunman initially said he was robbing the store, but quickly told Taylor he was not after money, she said.
After ordering everyone else out of the store, the gunman forced Taylor into the store's office.
That's when the gunman began "freaking out," Taylor said.
"I could tell from the very beginning he was scared," she said. "I just kept telling him to calm down, just breathe, you know, it's going to be all right. It's going to be OK."
However, her fear quickly turned to concern when she realized he was "just as scared as I was" and said they began sharing "a fear bond."
"I'm just trying to keep him calm and stay calm myself and stay alive and get through it. I knew nobody had to get hurt," Taylor said. "Once I was able to talk to him and calm him down, I realized I was probably going to be OK."
She believes he intended to commit suicide-by-cop.
Taylor declined to talk about much of her conversation with Alvarez.
"Honestly, It's kind of blurry — obviously adrenaline kicked in and I just did whatever he said," Taylor said. "It might all come back to me in the next few days."
Taylor graduated from Yuba City High School last year and plans to become a flight attendant.
She has never had any training in trauma intervention or crisis management and has only been working at the sporting good store for about two months.
Police spokeswoman Shawna Pavey called Taylor's performance with the gunman "impressive."
"I was just trying to engage him in conversation. I knew it would be a lot easier to shoot somebody in the back than it would to look them in the eye," Taylor recalled.
Taylor managed to keep it together inside the store, but once the gunman left, she said, she was overwhelmed with emotion.
"When the door shut, I knew it was over and that's when it hit me and that's when I started freaking out," Taylor said. "I started shaking and clung to the first officer. Once I was able to see my dad and brothers, I realized I was OK."
Police have not said what led to the peaceful resolution.
Alvarez, a former Modesto resident, was booked into the Sutter County Jail without bail on suspicion of robbery, kidnapping assault with a firearm, discharging a firearm into an inhabited building, burglary and two counts of false imprisonment.
He is set to make his first appearance today in Sutter County Superior Court.
For her part, Taylor said, she is glad she was able to stay calm in a desperate situation.
"I'm just thankful that no one got hurt and that I was able to help him," Taylor said. "That's what I wanted to do because he didn't feel safe."