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Gunman gives up in downtown standoff

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POSTED: May 17, 2012 4:55 p.m.

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A gunman who jumped from a Jaguar and barricaded himself inside a landmark restaurant Thursday surrendered peacefully after a three-hour standoff that shut down part ofSavannah's18th-century historic district.

A SWAT team in helmets and flak jackets arrested the man inside the upscale Olde Pink House restaurant. Investigators were still trying to sort out what led to the standoff, but initial details pointed to a botched kidnapping.

The chaos began just after 8 a.m. when a plainclothes officer outside a coffee shop saw the silver Jaguar jump the curb and the driver bounded out shouting, "Help me! I'm being kidnapped," said Savannah-Chatham County police spokeswoman Gena Sullivan.

A man in the passenger seat pointed a gun at the officer, who then fired a shot at the suspect and missed. The gunman bolted and ran about three blocks to the restaurant.

The driver told police he was being forced to take the gunman to an ATM and withdraw money while another suspect held his son hostage. Police found the 11-year-old boy unharmed at their home and later arrested a second man who fled from the home about 3 miles from the restaurant standoff.

"There are still a lot of questions," Sullivan said. "Detectives are still trying to piece things together."

The confrontation caused police to shut down busy streets and manicured squares within three blocks of the Olde Pink House restaurant in a converted 18th-century mansion known for its pink stucco facade. Tourists staying directly across the street at the Planters Inn had to stay locked inside until the standoff was over.

"We were eating breakfast and about to leave when they told us we couldn't go out," said Barbara Garrow of San Antonio, Texas, who left the inn with a friend two hours late for a trolley tour. "We sat by a window for about half an hour and they told us we had to go upstairs to our room."

Stephen Hines, a local technology consultant, had just parked on the third floor of a city garage overlooking the Olde Pink House on Reynolds Square. He found himself looking down on SWAT officers surrounding the entrance to an alleyway leading to the restaurant's back door. He watched as police sent in a robot with camera, then swarmed in with bulletproof shields as one officer called out, "Suspect! Suspect!" They emerged with a man with dreadlocks and a white shirt.

"They put him their car and he was complaining about being hurt," Hines said. "They pulled him out, took off his shirt and said, 'Those are just scratches.'"

Police did not immediately release the names of the suspects or of the father and son who claimed to have been kidnapped. It was unclear what charges the suspects would face.

Willie Chavez, who works at the Soda Pop Shop about three blocks away, said he was getting to work at about 8 a.m. Thursday when he saw a man sprint past "like he was running for his life."

Chavez went outside and at the end of the block saw the Jaguar rolling backward in the intersection and run into the curb. He said a man with his hair in dreadlocks bolted from the car and had a police officer chasing after him.

"The cops came quickly and took over the situation," Chavez said. "Within 30 seconds they were all around."

The standoff left downtown workers and tourists alike trying to find a way through streets closed off by police tape and officers turning cars and pedestrians away at intersections.

Local bankruptcy attorney Shari Smith was calling colleagues on her cellphone for help finding a route between the parking garage where she left her car and a hearing she needed to attend.

"I'm trying to weave my way to the building," said Smith, pulling a wheeled briefcase the size of a small suitcase. "I don't see how I'm going to get through there. It's not a good morning."

About an hour before the restaurant gunman surrendered, Ashlee Perkins decided to go ahead and close her business, Tier Luxury Cakes, for the day. The bakery a block from the standoff had police tape attached at the corner. Though customers could still reach the front door, Perkins said the disruption made her too late to start baking cupcakes to sell. She put out her "closed" sign at 10:30 a.m.

"I don't think anybody's going to be wandering down here with things the way they are," Perkins said.

 

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