Sheriff: Suspect held hostages at bank, held gun to their heads

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A suspect is in custody after allegedly attempting to rob a Jacksonville bank and holding multiple people hostage inside, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s office.

Police said the initial call came in to 911 shortly after 9 a.m. reporting a bank robbery in progress. The sheriff’s office said a suspect armed with a handgun was barricaded inside and holding people hostage at the Community First Credit Union.

Shortly after 11 a.m., the sheriff’s office confirmed 11 hostages were safe. Helicopter footage from CBS affiliate WJAX showed people walking away from the bank surrounded by SWAT teams.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said the suspect entered the bank with a dog, demanded money and took hostages.

SWAT negotiators were able to make contact with the suspect, who Williams said made demands to law enforcement, including asking for his family members to come to the scene. At one point, he released some of the hostages, Williams said.

Williams said the situation “escalated” and the suspect repeatedly threatened to kill the remaining hostages and held a gun to the back of their heads at several points. He said SWAT commanders made the decision to enter the bank as soon as possible.

Williams said the suspect became distracted when two people who had been hiding in the building, unbeknownst to him, fled the bank. That’s when SWAT teams entered the building and placed themselves between the hostages and the suspect.

Once the suspect saw the SWAT teams, he surrendered, Williams said.

At one point, 911 dispatchers received a report that someone had been shot in the building’s lobby, but the information turned out to be false. No one was shot, Williams said.

Williams praised the “fantastic job” of law enforcement for resolving the situation peacefully.

Williams initially released the name of the suspect, but the sheriff’s office later tweeted the name was incorrect. Williams didn’t have the man’s age but said he was in his “late 20s, early 30s.” He was not an employee of the bank, Williams said.

Williams said the hostages were unharmed, but are “shaken up.”

“You had employees inside the bank that just came to work, and were victimized by this individual,” Williams said. “You also had people going to the bank at 9 o’clock on a Thursday morning that were victimized by this individual.”

The dog who was with the suspect at the time of the robbery was unharmed and was handed over to animal control, Williams said.

The suspect is facing potential charges of bank robbery, armed kidnapping and aggravated assault, Williams said.