A parolee suspected in an armed robbery Wednesday night held police at bay until just before daybreak Thursday.
He claimed to be holding a woman hostage. Although police saw no indications there was a hostage, they took no chances after learning the man's identity and criminal record, which included convictions for aggravated robbery and aggravated kidnapping in Layton in 1980, Salt Lake police Sgt. George Vaughn said.Richard Thomas, 39, was booked into Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of aggravated robbery and for violating parole.
The ordeal started with the robbery at 10:30 p.m. of the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant, 132 N.
Redwood. The suspect, wielding a revolver and described as a 5-foot-10-inch black male wearing a hat and glasses, entered the restaurant and threatened several female clerks with a long-barreled revolver.
Stole small amount of money
"He received a small amount of money out of the registers. Then he went to the manager's office and demanded money from the manager at gunpoint," detective Ray Dalling said. The manager opened the safe and gave the robber the money.
The robber then fled on foot and disappeared into the Landing Point apartment complex north of the restaurant.
Vaughn said officers responding to the robbery call were able to track a man to apartment No. 82 in the complex and forced open the door, believing the suspect was inside.
Man yelled that he had a hostage
The man warned officers away at that point, claiming he had a hostage. "They heard a voice say they should get back or he would blow her head off," Vaughn said.
He later called his made-up hostage "Gina," Vaughn said. "He has taken hostages before."
Apartment belonged to a friend
The man had access to the apartment, which is occupied by a friend who was not home when the siege began, Vaughn said.
About 30 officers, including Salt Lake's SWAT team, were called to the scene while Vaughn and Sgt. Don Bell began negotiating with the man through an open window from the balcony.
Many residents evacuated
Other officers went from apartment to apartment evacuating residents, handing some over to the Red Cross and making cellular phones available for others to call friends or relatives to find a place to spend the rest of the night.
Jean Black was one of the evacuees. She said officers were very polite as they escorted her and her family out of the apartment. "They told me they had a dangerous situation in apartment 82. They were especially concerned about the corner of the apartment where the bedroom is, where my 91-year-old grandmama sleeps," she said.
Vaughn said the man first identified himself only as "Jack" but that officers soon after learned his full identity when the man asked police to call his brother, attorney and a number of others, including the media.
Police were about to storm in
Officers had cleared adjacent apartments and had a search warrant in hand shortly after 5 a.m. SWAT officers, who had been milling around a mobile command post parked in the restaurant's parking lot, disappeared into the darkness and were on the verge of storming the apartment at 5:45 a.m.
"Show us the hostage or the SWAT team will have to come in and will come in," Vaughn said he called in.
Bell said Thomas then walked out of the apartment. "He came out and surrendered to me. There was no hostage."
Vaughn said officers found a handgun inside the apartment after the surrender.
Required to wear ankle bracelet
Thomas was considered a fugitive because he was on intensive supervised parole, requiring him to wear an electronic ankle bracelet and report daily to his parole officer, state Corrections spokesman Jack Ford said.
"He absconded from parole about two weeks ago," Ford said. "Then he made a phone call two days after he failed to report to his parole officer. He called and said that he had been taken hostage by Colombian drug lords."
Ford said Corrections officers expected Thomas, known as "Fats," to turn himself in last week, but he didn't. "We were waiting for him to call."
Staff writers Nicole A. Bonham and Jason N. Swensen contributed to this story.