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Buena Park bank hostage suspect shot; manager rescued

March 1, 2012 12:29:49 AM PST
A bank hostage standoff in Buena Park ended Thursday with a SWAT team opening fire on the suspect and rescuing a bank manager.

"I don't know the circumstances as far as if he was lured outside or if we made entry, I know that at some point there were shots fired, officers immediately tried to evacuate the hostage, at which point the suspect fired at the officers," said Buena Park Police Cpl. Andy Luong.

More tense moments took place once the standoff ended. Authorities found suspicious pipe bombs inside the bank, but further investigation revealed they were not dangerous.

Witness Cindy Chun was ordered to stay inside a nearby salon and said the scene was terrifying.

"I was scared, never in my life," Chun said. "This is a big happening."

The incident began when a robbery was reported at the Saehan Bank in the area of Beach Boulevard and Rosecrans Avenue at 11:06 a.m.

According to Buena Park police, about five minutes after the suspect entered the bank, an employee asked the suspect if all the employees could leave the bank. The gunman complied, allowing everyone to leave except the bank manager. Police say there were seven employees in the bank at the time including the manager, and six were released.

During the standoff, the suspect dropped a note through the crack of the bank door. Police did not say what the demands were, but were investigating the incident as an attempted bank robbery.

Police said the suspect was shot after the SWAT team entered the bank at about 3 p.m. He was pulled out on a stretcher to the parking lot and taken to UCI Medical Center. His condition remained unknown Thursday night. He was not identified.

Three SWAT team members suffered minor injuries and were expected to be OK. The bank manager was not injured.

"We negotiated with the suspect for a number of hours. He made some demands. He ended up coming outside the door of the bank with a hostage at gunpoint," said Buena Park Police Chief Corey Sianez. "At that time an officer-involved-shooting occurred."

Police did not say if the suspect shot at officers first, or how many times he was hit.

"It's quite an intense moment when somebody comes out the door with a gun to a hostage. Those are split-second decisions that they need to make. And our main concern is the welfare and the safety of that hostage," said Sianez.

Police said even after the suspect was shot, he was not cooperating with officers who were trying to take him into custody.

"They did an outstanding job. I'm very proud of the men and women that are on our SWAT team and on the police department," Sianez said.

After the suspect was taken away, a bomb squad entered the bank to investigate several suspicious devices. It was not clear if the suspect had left them.

The Orange County District Attorney's Office is investigating the shooting, which is standard protocol.