More than 100 customers were kept inside a busy check-cashing service for hours Friday by police who believed the patrons had been taken hostage by armed robbers dressed as security guards.
After four tense hours, police determined that no robbers were inside and no money had been taken. All the customers inside The Financial Exchange, mostly women and children, then filed out one by one. No one was injured.
Two men were arrested and at least three were being sought. Police said as many as eight people may have been involved.
The scheme began Thursday night when gunmen kidnapped four people, including a clerk, security guard and assistant manager at the check-cashing service, as well as the assistant manager’s husband.
The four were taken to the assistant manager’s home, where another gunman was holding her 4-year-old daughter.
Early Friday morning, one of the gunmen, dressed as a security guard, went to the check-cashing business with the assistant manager. Police believe the plan was to rob an armored car, but it came and went without incident.
About 10:30 a.m., the assistant manager escaped from the check-cashing service and called police. At noon, when they realized the bandit posing as a security guard and perhaps other robbers could still be inside, police sealed off the building and refused to allow anyone to leave.
About the same time, the assistant manager’s mother knocked on her daughter’s door. The husband answered, and spotting a passing patrol car, bolted from the house.
The officers later caught one suspect trying to run from the house. The couple’s daughter and the other employees were found huddled in the basement.
Police elsewhere nabbed another suspect after exchanging gunfire with three men inside a car that had been stopped for a routine traffic violation. No was hurt in the gun battle.
Two of the men escaped and were being sought, along with the robber who had gone to the check-cashing service, who police believe escaped before the building was sealed.
As SWAT officers took up positions outside, business inside went on as usual, with people paying bills and collecting food stamps and welfare checks.