December 24, 2009 in Nation/World

3 hostages released after daylong standoff

Suspect in custody; motive not known
Mitch Weiss Associated Press
Associated Press photo

A suspect in a wheelchair surrenders to a police robot after holding hostages at a post office in Wytheville, Va., on Wednesday.
(Full-size photo)

WYTHEVILLE, Va. – A daylong standoff at a small-town Virginia post office ended peacefully with three hostages being released and a suspect who came out of the building in a wheelchair in custody, police said late Wednesday.

Warren Taylor of Sullivan County, Tenn., was being questioned and authorities did not immediately have a motive, state police Sgt. Michael Conroy said. The hostages and suspect left the building in Wytheville after authorities ordered the man to surrender.

The standoff began at about 2:30 p.m. when shots were fired at the one-story brick post office in the mountain town in western Virginia. No one was injured, and relatives of two of the hostages said they were able to talk to their loved ones by phone.

It ended about 8 1/2 hours later without the dozens of SWAT members armed with automatic weapons having to fire a shot.

“We’re just grateful it ended peacefully,” Conroy said. “This is just the best outcome we could hope for.”

Police in the town in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains told the Wytheville Enterprise the suspect had what appeared to be a common plastic explosive strapped to his chest. Conroy said police had found weapons and that shots were fired, but no explosives had been uncovered.

He said they were still searching the building late Wednesday, as well as Taylor’s truck.

The suspect made no demands other than to ask for a pizza, said Pete Rendina, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

An officer in the early evening delivered food and drink to the front door at the request of the suspect, state police said. Earlier reports said the man holding the hostages was in a wheelchair, but state police said he entered the building pushing one.

Carlton Austin said his daughter, postal worker Margie Austin, was among the hostages. She managed to call a family friend around 4:30 p.m. and said she was fine.

Postal worker Walt Korndoerfer said he was in the post office when he heard shots and a co-worker ran past. He called police and then ran himself.

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