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YEAR IN REVIEW: Big hostage drama at Big 5 in Yuba City

Editor's note: As we get closer to the end of 2012, it's time to look back at what made news in the Appeal-Democrat over the past year. Over 10 consecutive days ending Monday, we are running stories — in chronological order — on each of our top 10 stories of 2012.

Disagree with our choices? You can go to the A-D website at and vote for your own top 10 stories from among 20 choices or add your own. We will print the results on Jan. 3.

A botched robbery at a Yuba City store ended in August after an 18-year-old store employee helped to settle a four-hour standoff with law enforcement, police said.

Juan Carlos Alvarez burst into the Big 5 Sporting Goods on Colusa Avenue the morning of Aug. 6 and fired a single shot into the ceiling from a small handgun, police said.

Alvarez, 29, of Modesto ordered most people out of the store, then dragged store clerk Alyson Taylor to the back office at gunpoint. Alvarez first told Taylor he intended to rob the store, but later said he was not after money.

Taylor later said she believed she would be killed until she realized "he was just as scared as I was."

The Yuba City High School graduate believes Alvarez wanted to commit suicide-by-cop.

"I honestly think he just wanted to die," Taylor commented afterwards. "I don't think his intentions were to hurt anyone other than himself."

It's never been clear exactly how the gunman was convinced to surrender, but police credited Taylor for playing a significant role in the peaceful ending.

Taylor said she kept Alvarez talking and tried to keep him calm. She said Alvarez "didn't feel safe" and she wanted to help him without anyone getting hurt.

"Once I was able to talk to him and calm him down, I realized I was probably going to OK," Taylor said.

Alvarez eventually surrendered.

In October, a psychologist deemed Alvarez competent to stand trial.

He faces charges of robbery, assault and false imprisonment. Alvarez remains in custody without bail at the Sutter County Jail. He is due back in court Feb. 16 to set a preliminary hearing.

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