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Pittsburgh hostage situation: Armed hostage taker surrenders

1:19 PM, Sep 21, 2012   |    comments
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By USA TODAY

A 22-year-old armed man who took a hostage at random in a Pittsburgh office building today has surrendered peacefully after a six-hour standoff, police say.

The gunman, identified as Michael Thaxton, was handcuffed and taken from the scene in a police van.
The hostage was freed unharmed, the Associated Press reports.

Police Chief Nate Harper said earlier that no explosives were found in the 16th-floor offices of the CW Breitsman investment company at Three Gateway Center as they initially feared.

Before authorities shut down his access to his Facebook page, Thaxton communicated with friends who tried to get him to end the ordeal. His mother also came to the scene and spoke with him by phone, police say.

Early in the standoff, which began at 8:10 am. ET, Thaxton posted this message on his Facebook page: "i cant take it no more im done bro"

Update at 2:20 p.m. ET: KDKA-TV says an armed man who took a hostage in a 16th floor office in downtown Pittsburgh has surrendered peacefully after a six-hour standoff with police.

Update at 1:48 p.m. ET: In his latest briefing with reporters, Police Chief Nate Harper says Thaxton has no made no demands nor threats and apparently selected the office he took over by chance.

"We don't have a clue on why he selected this company, don't know why he came downtown," the poilce chief says. "Right now, it was a random act on his part."

He says Thaxton is maintaining a calm demeanor.

"His mood has not changed, he is still being cooperative. He is not showing any irrational mood or signs of aggression," Harper says.

The police chief says authorities shut down Thaxton's access to his Facebook page "so that we could have his full attention."

The police chief also says that authorities are in touch with one of Thaxton's court-ordered counselors, adding that "there is a good possibility there are some mental issues."

Update at 1:26 p.m. ET: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quotes Thaxton's mother, Ronda Thaxton, as saying, "I don't want my son to hurt the hostage, and I don't want my son to hurt himself."

Update at 12:56 p.m. ET: KDKA reports that surveillance video shows the suspect, Michael Thaxton, checking out the area around the building on Thursday.

Update at 12:19 p.m. ET: Thaxton asks people to stop posting "silly" things to his Facebook page, "i aint laughin rite now"

Update at 11:50 a.m. ET: The incident has spawned a conversation that appears to be between the hostage-taker, MIchael Thaxton, and friends regarding the situation.

One friend, recently posted this message to him: "Boogie we love you, watevers qoin on you can qet throuqh this .. i love you cuzzo stay stronq"

Update at 1:34 p.m. ET: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that police have also confirmed that the hostage is Charles Breitsman, who founded CW Breitsman associates in 2007. He is being held in the company's offices on the 16th floor. Police say that Thaxton and Breitsman are sitting across from each other in one room.

Update at 11:47 a.m. ET: His Facebook page is being constantly updated, even as the hostage situation plays out. About two hours ago, someone -- apparently Thaxton -- posted this note on his Facebook page:

this life im livn rite now i dnt want anymore ive lost everything and i aint gettn it back instead of walkn around all broke ...

Update at 11:42 a.m. ET: KDKA reports that the mother of the hostage-taker, Michael Thaxton, has spoken to him by phone. Police says she doesn't know what drove her son to take a hostage.

Update at 11:31 a.m. ET: Police say the hostage is a manager of the pension company. The man, described as having a military background and a criminal record, is not believed to have worked at the company.

Update at 11:23 a.m. ET: No shots have been fired and no one has been injured, Police Chief Nate Harper said.

Update at 11:12 a.m. ET: Police are moving reporters from the immediate area, KDKA reports. Workers in the building, however, have not been evacuated, except for those on the 16th floor.

Original posting: Police Chief Nate Harper tells reporters that the young man, who was carrying a package, has not made any demands, but that negotiators are talking with him.

"He is calm, he is not being irrational," Harper tells reporters. "Hopefully we will get this resolved."
He took a hostage shortly after 8 a.m. in Suite 1625, the offices of CW Breitsman Associates, a firm that runs employee-benefits programs.

It is located on the16th floor of Three Gateway Center, one of six office buildings that dominate the city skyline.

Harper also says that the young man's mother has arrived on the scene and will be allowed to speak to the man, identified as Klein Michael Thaxton from the Altoona, Pa., area.

The 22-year-old man initially said he had explosives in the package, but authorities have not confirmed yet whether he does.

The hostage is described as the employee of a company that handles pensions.

USA TODAY

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