Gino Montoya gripped the cop's gun in his right hand and parted the circle of 14 hostages around him.

The lunchtime crowd, high school students and grandparents alike, froze in midstep - the unthinkable rushing to their minds."This is to show you I mean business," the man screamed, raising the black semiautomatic. A gunshot cracked out, and the hostages cowered as the 9 mm bullet sped harmlessly past them.

"That was when I thought about my grandson . . . I wondered if I'd make his birthday party tomorrow," said a 77-year-old man who stood less than 2 feet from the sweating triggerman. "I knew he could take out four or five of us with that gun in nothing flat."

Suddenly, a midday stop at Taco Bell had turned into a noontime nightmare.

It ended 21/2 hours later - without any blood spilled.

The grandfather, who asked not to be identified, thanked Montoya's mother for the peaceful conclusion. Police say she persuaded her distraught son to give up as SWAT officers surrounded the building.

The incident began about 11:40 a.m. as South Salt Lake police officer Matt Jewkes arrived for lunch at the Ritz Classic Bowling Alley. Montoya, a known gangster wanted for aggravated robbery, strolled casually through the business's parking lot.

Jewkes recognized him and called for backup, then tried to approach the man, who ran a few feet before the officer tackled him. As the pair struggled, the man wrestled Jewkes' gun from him and held it to the officer's head.

The man also took the officer's radio and then ran from the Ritz parking lot through a residential area until he reached the drive-up window at Wendy's, 2185 S. State.

"This guy came running through the cars," said employee Stacey Strebel, 23. "He put a gun to the lady's head (who was in a car at the drive-up window). He told her to get out and give him the car, but she said no."

Janaye Johnson, 18, leaned out of the window to give the woman in the car her change.

"He had a gun pointing at her (the driver), but I didn't see it and he was saying, `Let me in,' " said Johnson. "He was in my way, and I told him to move."

The gunman turned and pointed the pistol at Johnson. When he did, the driver rolled up her window and sped away. Johnson and Strebel said the man then seemed as if he wanted to climb through the Wendy's window, but he ran inside the crowded restaurant instead.

Pat Kryger, 18, was taking orders at the front counter.

"He came in waving the gun around. I yelled for someone to call the cops, but they were already coming so we didn't have to."

The gunman dropped the police radio he'd taken from Jewkes and then ran from Wendy's into the middle of State Street. Witnesses said he looked confused and disoriented.

"He was in a daze, holding the gun in the air and dancing around in circles," Strebel said. "He saw the cop coming and ran into the middle of the (State) street, then into Taco Bell (2161 S. State). I don't think he knew what he was doing."

The grandfather-hostage agrees, saying the gunman talked incessantly about not wanting to go back to prison but seemed to have no significant requests.

About two hours into the standoff, he dictated two letters to the store's manager, one addressed to his mother and the other to his girlfriend.

"He said in them he was tired of life, that he didn't want to go back to prison again and that he was going to kill himself," the hostage said.

In fact, by this time, the gunman was anything but threatening toward the hostages, the grandfather said.

"He kept asking me for advice . . . I told him to drop the gun out of the window, and we'd all walk out together. That way, they wouldn't shoot him."

Detective Mike Fierro was the first police officer to contact the gunman by phone inside the restaurant.

"He (Fierro) was just trying to find out what he wanted," said South Salt Lake Capt. Drew Long. "(The gunman) didn't want to talk very long."

Long said private citizens called the restaurant several times representing themselves as police officers, intensifying the already dangerous situation.

"They told him there would be no deals and that they were going to come in and shoot him" Long said.

The gunman, however, didn't believe the calls, the hostage said.

He flashed gang signs as he talked with police but released hostages periodically.

SWAT officers took him into custody about 2 p.m. after his mother talked intently with him at the restaurant's drive-up menu board.

Montoya was later booked into the Salt Lake County jail on 14 counts of aggravated kidnapping, each punishable by five years to life in prison.

*****

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Hostage crisis

1. Gunman takes gun and radio during struggle with South Salt Lake police officer at Ritz Classic Bowling parking lot.

2. Tries to commandeer car at drive-up window of Wendy's restaurant.

3. Takes hostages at Taco Bell and holds them for 2 1/2 hours.