Less than 24 hours after shots rang out in a normally quiet Watsonville neighborhood, loved ones are grieving the loss of two men, and neighbors are stunned at the violence.
during a seven-hour police standoff Wednesday evening.
Both men were shot in the head, Watsonville Deputy Police Chief Rudy Escalante said. Stephen Hull, 62, likely died around 5:30 p.m. Aaron Hull, 36, took his own life between 5:45 and 7 p.m.
"There was a dispute over a personal family matter," Escalante said, declining to elaborate out of respect for the Hull family.
Not knowing both men were dead, Watsonville police and the Sheriff's Office SWAT team surrounded the home until after midnight, when the SWAT team decided they had exhausted all efforts to end the situation peacefully, breached the house and found the Hulls' bodies.
"We are extremely saddened for the family," Escalante said, calling the double shooting a "catastrophic event."
Police released the men's identities around 3 p.m. Thursday after notifying relatives.
As crime scene investigators continued to collect evidence at the house Thursday afternoon, one of Aaron Hull's fishing buddies came by to leave flowers. The friend, who declined to give his name, said he had known Aaron for several years.
"I don't know how to react," he said. "It's a tragedy for the whole family."
The fishing buddy said he brought flowers to show there's love and support for the family in the community. He said the violence was uncharacteristic of Aaron Hull.
"He was a real good fisherman, respected among his friends," he said.
when a local relative of the man who lives in the Lawrence Avenue house called 911 to report a family argument. That person, who had been phoned by Stephen Hull, asked police to check on the two men. At that point, there was no report weapons were involved or that the situation was violent, according to Escalante.
Three Watsonville police officers were dispatched to the call at 5:39 p.m. The first officer, Sgt. Tony Maydagao, arrived five minutes later and went to the door alone, Escalante said.
Maydagao was speaking with Aaron Hull and noticed one of his hands was injured. The son also said his dad had been shot in the head but insinuated that his dad was no longer at the house.
Police said Maydagao convinced Aaron to come out to the front of the house and look for his dad, but then Aaron turned and ran back inside. He ignored the sergeant's commands to stop.
Maydagao followed. One step inside, he saw the Stephen Hull down on the floor in a pool of blood. He didn't get a chance to check on the father, but the sergeant's experience led him to believe that man was dead, according to Escalante.
Maydagao and Aaron Hull scuffled, but the sergeant couldn't control the man. Fearing that Aaron was getting a gun, Maydagao fired one shot from his duty pistol, then turned and ran, police reported.
"He was trying to run for his life," Escalante said. "... The officer risked his life and was in an extremely dangerous situation."
Aaron slammed the front door shut and Maydagao tried to kick it open. That's when the Aaron fired seven shots from a .223-caliber rifle at Maydagao.
At least six of those bullets went through the closed front door. Maydagao wasn't hit; the rounds struck a garage across the street, Escalante said.
Maydagao fired back once. His shot didn't hit anyone, according to police.
Neighbors nearby said they heard the gunfire but thought it was fireworks.
Talwinder Dhillon, 20, lives two doors up with his parents and sister. He was outside working on his car when the violence started, but it wasn't until a woman screamed and police zoomed into the neighborhood that he realized what he had heard was gunshots, not firecrackers.
"I was a little worried," he said.
Once shots were fired, police took "swift action to protect the neighborhood," Escalante said. The neighborhood swarmed with 40-60 public safety officers—police, sheriff's deputies, California Highway Patrol officers, firefighters and medics—all evening.
"You just never know what's going to occur," Escalante said. "The suspect's going to dictate the response."
A handful of nearby neighbors were evacuated. Others were told to stay inside.
A hostage negotiator and the Sheriff's Office SWAT team "continually tried to establish communication" with Aaron Hull, but he never responded, Escalante said.
By 7 p.m., it was silent inside the home. Audio devices and motion sensors failed to detect any action inside the house, so the SWAT team stormed in around 12:30 a.m., police reported.
Both men were found in the living room. Escalante said there were several weapons, including a handgun, as well as magazines of ammunition and shotgun shells in the house.
"There was quite a bit of armory inside," he said.
Escalante said he didn't not know if the guns were registered or who they belonged to. Also, he didn't know if detectives found a suicide note in the house.
The Sheriff's Office CSI team was at the house Thursday to help Watsonville police collect evidence and analyze bullet trajectory, Escalante said.
After firing his gun, Maydagao is not required to take leave but will be offered time off to decompress from the harrowing situation, Escalante said.
A woman who has lived across the street at 72 Lawrence Ave. for 14 years praised the police response to the violence. The woman, who declined to give her name, said her family was on lockdown inside their home all night.
"It was pretty scary," she said Thursday, as she left the neighborhood with her three teenage children.
She said she didn't know the Hulls.
"They kept to themselves," she said. "We thought they were nice people."
Dhillon, the other neighbor, also said he didn't see much of the Hulls. Sometimes they would be out front loading or unloading kayaks from a truck, he said.
Aaron Hull taught people how to fish from kayaks at Monterey Bay Kayaks, according to the company website.
Both of the neighbors said the violence is unusual for the area.
"It's a good neighborhood," the woman said. "... It's just sad. It's tragic."