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By Shawn Raymundo
Authorities last week arrested a San Clemente man on suspicion of vandalism and assault with a deadly weapon following a standoff with police at the former Vista Del Mar apartment complex in North Beach, now operating as a permanent supportive housing facility for the homeless.
Matthew Norris, 47, was arrested for allegedly making criminal threats Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 4, when the Orange County Sheriff’s Department responded to a call that the man was threatening to hurt someone inside the complex on the 1600 block of Calle Las Bolas, according to Sgt. Dennis Breckner.
At around 5 p.m., OCSD received the call from the facility’s community supervisor as Norris was reportedly “suffering a mental breakdown and just started creating problems at the house,” Breckner told San Clemente Times on Monday, Nov. 9.
According to Breckner, Norris had reportedly been throwing glass down the stairs of the complex, running with a broken glass bottle while chasing somebody, and banging on a door with a rock.
The incident, Breckner said, prompted considerable presence from law enforcement as Norris locked himself in an office while officers arrived to the scene. The standoff ended at around 7 p.m. when Norris came out of the room on his own volition, leading up to his arrest.
“We got there, tried to find him, and he hunkered down in a room—locked in an office—and so we just maintained a visual on the room and were trying to get him to come out,” Breckner said. “(We) called tactical support to assist and then before we had to complete the search warrant process he came out on his own and he was arrested for criminal threats.”
“He ended up coming out without incident, which is what we want,” Breckner later said, adding, “We encourage people when these things happen to cooperate … in this case, it’s an example of a peaceful ending to what could have been a tactical team having to answer, so we want to avoid that by getting people’s cooperation.”
As of Monday morning, Norris was still in police custody and being held on $70,000 bail.
The apartment complex in 2019 was sold for $3 million to an anonymous buyer who leased the building to the Laguna Beach-based nonprofit Friendship Shelter. The nonprofit has since rehabilitated the property to be used as a permanent supportive housing program for the homeless, the SC Times previously reported.
Dawn Price, executive director for Friendship Shelter, expressed remorse for the situation, explaining that it’s the nonprofit’s “responsibility and our job to keep (the facility) safe and we very much regret the disturbance in the neighborhood.”
“This is an unprecedented and unacceptable occurrence,” she also said. “We are taking every step to ensure it doesn’t happen again. It’s never happened in our organization, we’re resolved to be a good neighbor just as we have been in other sites. This is an unfortunate and unacceptable event.”
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.