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Lengthy SWAT standoff ends, suspect not inside

LAWRENCEVILLE — An eight-hour SWAT standoff at a Lawrenceville home ended Friday morning when officers discovered the suspect wasn’t inside after all.

Gwinnett County police responded to 2865 Castle Drive shortly after 10 p.m. Thursday night. According to spokesman Cpl. Edwin Ritter, they were called to the home because 38-year-old resident Russell Fowler “became enraged after a disagreement” and fired a gun shot inside.

“At the time, there were several residents inside the house and they all retreated to the exterior of the home and the suspect followed,” Ritter said. “The suspect ran back inside the house when the complainant called police.”

A “convicted felon with a violent past,” Fowler refused to comply with responding officers’ request to come outside, Ritter said. Officers never saw Fowler but believed he was inside based on their phone conversations with him and the assertions of other residents.

Due to Fowler’s history, SWAT was called to the scene. A robot was utilized to search the home for the suspect before officers entered and did their own search.

“After a period of time, SWAT officers entered the home and concluded with a thorough search for the suspect inside the home and the suspect was not there,” Ritter said. “It’s believed the suspect exited the house unseen when officers initially arrived on the scene.”

The scene was cleared at 6:30 a.m. Friday. Fowler returned home about 45 minutes later, officials said, and was taken into custody on charges of aggravated assault, possession of a firearm by a felon and simple battery (two counts).