Man’s fiery death in Anaheim standoff leaves family at a loss — (The Orange County Register)

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The Orange County Register

August 11, 1998

Author: CAROL MASCIOLA, The Orange County Register

POLICE: One of Bobby Gonzales’ brothers searches for some explanation behind Friday night’s events.

Bobby Gonzales’ townhouse was the center of a standoff, ringed by 100 heavily armed police officers and firefighters in bulletproof vests. A fire broke out Friday after sunset, and the crowd waited to see if Gonzales would finally stop shooting and surrender.    But Gonzales stayed inside and died.The next morning, authorities found the unemployed roofer, a father of three, in the ashes of his kitchen. He lay among cooking implements, potatoes, charred pages from the several Bibles he loved to read, pieces from his Zippo lighter collection, a melted “Peaches and Herb” album.

Within reach, police found the shotgun, the partially melted handgun and the ammunition cartridges he had used during the seven-hour standoff.

On Monday, the gutted townhouse was silent again except for the crunch of his kid brother’s boots in the ashes.

Ken Gonzales Burt, 29, of Brea spent the day digging through the rubble with a charred kitchen spatula in search of some memento of his brother, a man he describes as his best friend.  He dug for hours, feeling that if he delved deep enough maybe he’d find an explanation for his brother’s shocking behavior and catastrophic end.

As he dug, he remembered the way his brother loved to dress up and how he loved going to church. How he collected Marlboro and Disney memorabilia. How he loved his 9-year-old daughter, Sabrina.

“He could tell stories, spellbinding stories,” said Burt, one of Gonzales’ five siblings. “He had a way of talking that made you laugh. ”

Burt unearthed a Zippo embossed with a horse, a pair of his brother’s size 9 1/2 work boots, a book of Psalms that somehow had been spared.  “Bobby, why? Why? ” he said. “Why didn’t you just come out? I picture this man like a solid piece of steel, so tough he could handle anything. ”

Family members said they knew Gonzales had been a violent man, almost from the time he became a man.

He served prison time in the late ’70s for assault with a deadly weapon and again in 1985 for attempted murder. He was known for his violent temper, and his wife, Yolanda Gonzales, accused him of beating her, most recently just before the standoff.

Pam Gonzales of Santa Ana, his stepmother, said the family knew that Bobby Gonzales was depressed and was suffering from a 4-year-old shoulder injury that cost him his job as a roofer.  They knew he was taking a muscle relaxer and painkiller for his shoulder, two antidepressants and Valium to calm his nerves.

But they never imagined things would end the way they did, that he could behave like one of those armed, holed-up maniacs they saw on the evening news.

“Bobby was a fun person to be with,” Pam Gonzales said. “He was also very giving. He had a very giving, forgiving heart. He tried to do the right thing, but something undermined him and allowed the bad side to come out.”

Bobby Gonzales talked about his emotional troubles during a psychiatric evaluation he submitted to in 1996 as part of a car-accident lawsuit he filed.

“Well, to be honest, I very seldom even come out of my bedroom,” he is quoted as saying in the evaluation prepared by Dr. Eric H. Marcus of Los Angeles. “I don’t even go downstairs. I, uh, keep my shades closed and my doors closed. Keep the lights off. TV off.

Radio off. ” Pam Gonzales said the toughest part of dealing with his death is feeling that they might have prevented it. The Anaheim Police Department would not allow family members to talk to Bobby Gonzales during the standoff as a matter of policy, because officials fear that family intervention might aggravate such situations. Pam Gonzales said she thinks a talk with his father would have made him come out.

The family has started making funeral arrangements but hasn’t set a date.

“This, to me, is where the funeral should be,” Burt said, finally losing his composure after several stoic hours. “They’ll raze it. They’ll rebuild. People will move in and raise their kids, and I know one day I’ll never come by this intersection again. ”