Craig Carlos-Valentino had long carried the burden of being the sole breadwinner for his family, holding jobs that kept him away for days at a time.
It was too expensive for him to commute from his Antioch home to his two jobs as a nightclub security guard in San Francisco, so from Thursdays to Saturdays he slept in his car between shifts. Yet, he persevered.
Then came recent marital struggles with his wife of 20 years. Relatives said those struggles launched a meltdown Thursday in which he threatened to blow himself up on the Bay Bridge, stalemated police and crippled the span for hours before he surrendered peacefully.
Carlos-Valentino, 51, was arrested after an episode that played out minute by minute on TV news channels Thursday morning as he halted Bay Bridge traffic, claiming to have a pipe bomb and, later, threatening to plunge into the water hundreds of feet below.
His sister, Viviana Carlos, of Sacramento, said that just minutes before the standoff he sent a text message written in the past tense to friends and family, saying he had committed suicide because he believed his wife had an affair.
"I called him up, and he answered. I didn't know yet he was on the bridge. He said, 'I've had enough. I just want to be with Mother,' " Carlos said, explaining that their mother had died in recent years.
"Then I get a breaking-news text. I said, 'Oh, it can't be,' and turned the TV on. Then he walked out (of the SUV), and I knew it was him."
Commuters already on the bridge were trapped after the California Highway Patrol shut down traffic just west of Treasure Island and began diverting San Francisco-bound motorists away from the toll plaza in Oakland. There would be at least two hours of uncertainty and frustration before they were allowed to move along and traffic -- fortuitously lighter because of the Veterans Day holiday -- was given regular access to the bridge.
Authorities said that Carlos-Valentino, a father of eight, was crossing the bridge in his SUV with his 15-year-old daughter just before 7 a.m. when he called 911, saying he had a gun, and planned to detonate a pipe bomb on the bridge. He also called a local radio station with the same message.
After passing through the Treasure Island tunnel, he pulled over. Within minutes, patrol cars were in tow and sealed off the morning commute. Carlos-Valentino could be seen from television news helicopters talking on a cell phone, mostly to the police negotiators trying to persuade him to surrender, but also at least once to his sister.
At some point after Carlos-Valentino hung up on his sister and got a call from one of his adult daughters pleading with him to surrender, he climbed over the bridge railing and threatened to jump, authorities said. By then, the teenage daughter who had been riding with him had safely gotten out of the vehicle and was with police.
About 8 a.m., negotiators coaxed Carlos-Valentino back onto the roadway and into a waiting squad car. The CHP later said that he was apologetic and remorseful for what he had done and admitted that the weapon he professed to be carrying was a pellet gun he had tossed off the bridge.
"He was very unstable," said CHP Sgt. Trent Cross. "We were dealing with someone who's very angry "... because of issues going on in his personal life. But he didn't jump off the bridge, and we're very fortunate for that."
Carlos-Valentino was arrested on suspicion of brandishing a weapon and making criminal threats. His wife took custody of their daughter, and they were referred to a crisis counselor, said CHP Officer Shawn Chase. He added that Antioch police served a protective order to Carlos-Valentino prohibiting contact with his wife and 15-year-old daughter.
The San Francisco District Attorney's Office did not immediately return calls Thursday regarding when charges may be filed.
The San Francisco Bomb Squad examined his SUV after police drove Carlos-Valentino away and found no evidence of explosives. They had been skeptical of the claim, enough to allow traffic on the eastbound lower deck of the Bay Bridge to continue flowing uninterrupted.
"There wasn't enough of a credible threat from an explosives standpoint" to warrant shutting down the countercommute, Cross said.
Friends and relatives said Carlos-Valentino, who had worked in the past as both an emergency first-responder and in civilian police work, had had no run-ins with the law before Thursday's episode.
Ultimately, his life was a common story of someone struggling to make ends meet in a dour economy, his sister said.
"He worked two jobs, even though he didn't want to be so far from his family. It was the only thing he could find," Viviana Carlos said. "He was in a lot of pain and reached a breaking point."
Other friends said the pipe bomb claim, outlandish as it was, is a sign that Carlos-Valentino was desperate for attention to his troubles. His sister agreed.
"He cried out for help, but he didn't do it in the right way," she said. "I hope he gets the help he needs now."
Staff writers Janis Mara and Angela Woodall contributed to this story. Contact Robert Salonga at 925-943-8013. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.