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Man who held son hostage in Auburn faces multiple charges

Police say that between Feb. 12 and Feb. 13, 2021, Michael J. Gulla Jr. threatened and tried to strangle his pregnant ex-wife at the home she shares with their 20-month-old son in Auburn.

Auburn police also say that after his ex-wife got away from him on a ruse hours later, Gulla barricaded himself in the home with the child as a hostage. He later set the boy free — and before he surrendered two hours later, tried to burn down the home.

On Feb. 18, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office charged Gulla, 33, with one count of first-degree burglary-domestic violence, one count of second-degree assault-domestic violence, one count of unlawful imprisonment-domestic violence, one count of second-degree arson, two counts of first-degree assault for firing at two Auburn police officers during the incident and, because he is a convict, one count of first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

At his March 2 arraignment in King County Superior Court, Gulla, who was previously convicted in a Snohomish County courtroom for first-degree assault, pleaded not guilty to all charges. He is in King County jail on $1 million bail.

Here is what happened, according to court records, the Auburn Police Department’s Certification for Determination of Probable Cause, and what the woman herself told police.

According to what the victim told Auburn police, she and her son live in a home on 4th Street Northeast. Although Gulla has not lived there for about a year, she told police, he comes over randomly, against her wishes and against a valid, no-contact order dating from July 2020.

At about 11:30 p.m. Feb. 12, according to what the victim told police, Gulla used a key to unlock the front door, and although she had placed a doorstop on the floor, he kicked the door open and held her and their son hostage in the home for hours.

According to what she told police, for the next two hours, Gulla was highly confrontational with her, accusing her of seeing others and other alleged wrongs.

At 2 a.m., she told police, she pushed her hand against Gulla’s chest to keep him away, and in so doing broke his necklace. At that point, she told police, Gulla grabbed her by her arm, spun her around and put her in a chokehold, cutting off her breath as she tried to scream. According to what she told police, Gulla assured her he’d let her go if she stopped screaming, which she did.

Over the night, the woman told police, Gulla continuously threatened and harassed her, loading and unloading a 9-mm handgun and refusing to let her sleep. At one point, she told police, she could feel the metal of the gun’s barrel as he pressed it into her back, threatening her as he did.

As she told police, Gulla repeatedly refused to let her leave and told her that her home was the only place he felt comfortable killing himself, and that he would not go back to prison.

According to what the woman told police, eight hours into the incident, she got Gulla’s permission to leave by pretending to be sick and needing something from a store. He consented, only on the condition that she leave their child with him.

Just before 1 p.m. Feb. 13, according to police account, the distressed woman flagged a police sergeant at an Auburn gas station and informed him that her ex-husband had assaulted her at her home, and that he had their son, and a handgun.

According to the police account, the sergeant called for additional officers and, given the gun threat, set a perimeter around the house. When officers announced over a PA system that Gulla must surrender himself to custody, according to the police account, he fired multiple shots from his handgun at two officers, narrowly missing one of them.

According to the police account, on- and off-duty SWAT officers and negotiators were then called to the scene, and negotiators persuaded Gulla by cell phone to release his son, at which time the boy was reunited with his mother. Gulla surrendered at 3:15 p.m.

After Gulla’s surrender, according to the police account, officers discovered that he had started a fire on a pad of paper in a hall closet of the home, which the Valley Regional Fire Authority soon extinguished. According to police, although the closet itself sustained minimal damage, the child’s bedroom sustained extensive damage, and its contents were destroyed.

According to the police account, Gulla told police later during an interview that he had first heard a noise and thought there was a problem at a neighboring house, before he realized that police were outside, talking to him on a loudspeaker.

According to the police account, Gulla told officers he’d been watching television with his son before he fired his gun out the window to “get the attention of police and to start a conversation.”

According to the police account, Gulla claimed he had started the fire so his ex-wife could not return to the home because he did not want people to find her.

According to the police account, Gulla told officers he had fired at a shed where police were because he couldn’t see past some bushes, and that he had asked his son to walk out the front door to his mother.

According to court records, Gulla has previous convictions from 2007 for first-degree attempted assault and possession of a stolen firearm, and four prior convictions for first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm from two separate incidents in January 2016.

According to court records, Gulla had previously pleaded guilty to one count of domestic violence and one count of misdemeanor harassment-domestic violence for an incident involving his ex-wife in February 2020, when he had wrapped his arm around her throat and squeezed, preventing her under threat of further violence from leaving their home.

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