ST. CLOUD – A nearly nine-hour standoff ended late Thursday at a St. Cloud bank after a fifth and final bank employee taken hostage during an early afternoon robbery was freed.
Just after that man walked out the bank’s front door, law enforcement moved in and arrested the suspect, according to a St. Cloud police spokeswoman. No one was hurt, she said.
Three hours earlier, the first four hostages, three women and one man, ran out the front door of the Wells Fargo Bank at 200 S. 33rd Av. one by one.
Negotiations with the male suspect began shortly after the robbery was reported at 1:45 p.m. According to police scanner audio and a cell-phone video apparently posted by the suspect on one hostage’s Facebook page, the suspect had a bank employee post a sticky note on a drive-through window with a phone number to call for negotiations.
Several hours into the standoff, the first hostage freed, a woman wearing a face mask, ran out toward armed officers with her hands up, holding a cellphone in one hand. She was quickly escorted to safety.
Just after she fled the bank, video showed the apparent suspect briefly opening the door from the inside and tossing what appeared to be paper bills into the air.
A few minutes later, a second woman emerged and was led to safety. Then, just before 8 p.m., a male bank employee emerged unharmed. And few minutes later, a fourth person, a woman, walked out.
The fifth and final hostage was freed about 10:15 p.m., following which officers moved in and arrested the suspect.
In a news conference just before midnight, St. Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson identified the suspect as a 35-year-old man whom he said law enforcement has had numerous contacts with and who was supposed to be in court Thursday for “a violent offense.”
He said that some of the hostages were freed by the suspect, while others made their escapes on their own.
Anderson said the man had “a prior dispute with the bank.”
All afternoon and evening, two armored vehicles stood by the bank’s front door. As the night wore on, local officers and FBI agents on the scene appeared to ease their stance a bit, having pizza delivered for the suspect and officers.
Police moved onlookers away, but hundreds watched the drama unfold from across the street until it was resolved late Thursday, cheering as each hostage walked free.
Anderson and others at the news conference praised the partnership between police, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.
“Sitting in the command post was literally like watching a symphony,” Anderson said.
St. Cloud resident Abdi Kadir said he was in the bank drive-through just before 2 p.m. when the teller hurriedly told him to leave. As he drove off, he saw people running out the bank’s front door, he said.
Abdi Ugas, also of St. Cloud, said he was in the bank from about 11 a.m. to noon. “I’m so lucky” to have just missed the robbery, he said.
“We pray for the safety of the staff,” said Farrah Aden, who was watching the scene with Kadir and Ugas.