A bank robbery suspect who took hostages Thursday morning inside a Community First Credit Union in Jacksonville, FL, is in custody and the 11 hostages were freed safely, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff Mike Williams described the dramatic rescue of the hostages by SWAT team members just before 11 a.m. He said that when two people hiding inside the bank, unknown to the hostage taker, tried to run from the bank, it distracted the hostage taker, giving the SWAT team the opportunity it had been looking for to storm the bank, reports WJXT.
"(They) placed themselves between the hostage taker and the hostages, in essence rescuing those hostages," Williams said. "We were able to take him into custody without incident and save the lives of those hostages."
Williams said the man, whose name has not yet been released, surrendered as soon as he saw the SWAT team members. News4Jax crews at the scene watched as the 11 hostages were escorted out safely by SWAT officers about 11 a.m. Thursday.
"Those guys work and train hard every single day for days like today," Williams said. "And it paid off today. We were able to not only resolve it but resolve it peacefully through some really professional expertise to be able to make the right decision at the right time."
Williams said the decision to enter the building was made by SWAT command as the situation escalated inside the building with the hostage taker threatening the hostages at gunpoint.
The situation began at 9:03 a.m. Thursday when officers responding to a reported bank robbery at the credit union saw the robbery in progress and called for backup and the SWAT team.
Williams said SWAT members arrived and made contact with the hostage taker, who made some demands, including that he wanted some family members to be brought to the scene.
Williams said the hostage taker let a few hostages go during negotiations with SWAT members, but continued to threaten the people inside the bank, leading SWAT command to decide to storm the bank at their next opportunity.
Williams said the hostage taker will face charges ranging from bank robbery, to armed kidnapping and aggravated assault, depending on the outcome of the investigation. He said the man came into the bank with a dog, but that the dog was unharmed and is now in the care of Animal Control.