Life wasn't easy for Charles Eugene Hastings, but the parolee wasn't above complicating his life even further. Hastings was the original hard-luck kid. At 39, the recently paroled Hastings had been kicked out of his Las Vegas home by his wife, and was about to be evicted by the friends he'd been staying with in Reno. A convicted armed robber should be accorded more respect than that.
If he'd had a more developed sense of irony, Hastings might have gone by the name "Lucky." But the only sense he apparently had was a belief that things might be better back in prison. He wished he could go back there. Given his current situation, he knew that he was in pretty good position for going back.
But he'd also put himself in a pretty good position to get shot if he wasn't careful. If only he could get the officers to arrest him under his terms and conditions. That's when Hastings got what passed for an inspiration in the criminal world.
As a special informant to Dave Spencer of the Reno FBI Bureau, Hastings had access to the man virtually 24/7. He walked to the Fireside Lounge on the corner of Fourth and Lake Streets, dialed up his favorite federal agent on a pay phone, and fessed up to having some 13 stolen antique knives and a stolen Beretta on his person. Oh, and he wanted to turn himself in to Spencer.
Spencer agreed to the meet.
Having done his civic duty, Hastings hung up the phone. He felt good; optimistic, even. He'd been honest and forthright with Spencer on everything but one little matter. The moment the federal agent showed up, Hastings was going to put that Beretta to bad use: He was going to shoot and kill Dave Spencer, thereby ensuring himself a one-way ticket to a federal institution.
At least, that was his game plan.
Hastings made himself comfortable in the Fireside Lounge. He introduced himself and his stolen firearm to its patrons, and advised them that nobody was going to leave until he said so.
Unbeknownst to Hastings, a motorist driving by the intersection noticed the paunchy little man with the handgun trekking toward the corner of Fourth and Lake Street. The motorist continued home, slipped off her shoes, and called the police.
When the call went out, Officer Tim Dees of the Reno Police Department happened to be at that very intersection visiting Kathie Bradley, a former deputy cum reserve officer who worked at Fireside Liquors, which sat adjacent to the Fireside Lounge nestled in the parking lot of the L-shaped Fireside Inn.
In 1984 prior to the wide availability of mobile phones, it was a given that the call was already several minutes old. Armed with this knowledge, Dees left the liquor store and began checking the vicinity in his patrol car. What Dees did not know was that the subject of the call had walked right past the liquor store and gone into the Fireside Lounge just minutes earlier.
While Hastings drank and commiserated with his newfound acquaintances, one of his "hostages" snuck through an inner connecting door to the liquor store where he gained access to a telephone and called the police. Hastings' lack of vigilance over his captives was such that even the bartender was able to sneak in a call to the police. They weren't the only ones.
After receiving the call from Hastings, FBI agent Dave Spencer also made a call to the Reno Police Department. He stopped by the station on his way to meet Hastings and asked that Reno PD's Special Operations Response Team (SORT) roll to the location with him. It was about this time that the hostage call had come into Reno PD dispatch. The only problem was, neither Spencer nor the SORT team had any knowledge of the situation.