8.5-Hour standoff at wytheville post office ends with three hostages released, suspect in custody news roanoke.com gas vs diesel

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The latest: Authorities searched the building and the suspect’s truck for explosives late Wednesday, said Sgt. Mike Conroy, of the Virginia State Police. It was not yet confirmed whether there were, in fact, any explosives there. It appeared the three people who were released were the only hostages in the building, Conroy said. No injuries were reported. Multiple shots had been fired, and at least one bullet hole could be seen cracking the glass window in the front of the building.

Geller said all three hostages appear to be unharmed but will be checked by medical officials. The suspect was seated in a wheelchair as he wheeled his way out the front doors of the Wytheville post office and was taken into custody by federal officials. Geller declined to identify the suspect.

— After a police vehicle approached the post office just before 10:50 p.m., a loudspeaker could be heard announcing, "Put your hands up." Three people were seen exiting the post office. At least one person was restrained against a police vehicle. A man with a prosthetic leg then exited the post office in a wheelchair and could be seen with his hands over his head being approached by a police robot, as officers moved in behind a SWAT vehicle.

— Law enforcement has evacuated the area around the post office. The Red Cross and the Wythe County department of emergency management have partnered to provide food and shelter for the people temporarily displaced from their homes. Food is available at the fire station on Spring Street in Wytheville. The Red Cross will provide temporary shelter in a local motel. Emergency management official Ikey Davidson said they expect between five to 10 people, at most, using the services. The public can call Davidson at (276) 724-6000 for more information.

— Wytheville Baptist Church near the post office has opened its doors for the families of hostages. By 7:30 p.m., authorities had not escorted anyone there, said pastor Rusty Mullins. He said they would wait through the night with water, lemonade and cookies.

WYTHEVILLE, Va. — An armed man pushing a wheelchair reportedly took as many as five hostages Wednesday afternoon at the downtown Wytheville post office, authorities said, and the unidentified man may be in possession of C-4, a military-grade explosive.

A Wytheville Department of Public Safety official said that five hostages were inside the building shortly after 2:30 p.m., including three employees and two customers. In an evening press release, state police said the suspect was inside the post office with more than one hostage.

According to The Associated Press, the man made no demands other than to ask for a pizza, said Pete Rendina, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Rendina said the man was in a wheelchair and missing part of his leg, but he had no other information. But state police spokeswoman Geller said in an evening news release that the suspect reportedly entered the post office pushing a wheelchair, contrary to earlier reports. She said the purpose of the wheelchair was still unknown.

Oliver was at the office sending an overnight Christmas package of $300 in cash and $100 in a check to his 16- and 13-year-old sons in Florida, Sandy Oliver said. Minutes after the post office was locked down, his sister Niki called him and he reported he was in good condition and hung up the phone.

A customer who was leaving the post office as the gunman entered said the suspect was driving a red truck with Marine Corps stickers, the Enterprise reported. She said that he had fired at police and had hand grenades. A sheriff’s office employee confirmed that there were grenades on the man’s truck.

Several hospitals around the region have been alerted to the hostage situation. Eric Earnhart, spokesman for Carilion Clinic, said authorities have been in touch with the New River Valley Medical Center and Roanoke Memorial hospitals. Carilion sent one of its helicopters back to its New River Valley base this afternoon and alerted Wythe County Community Hospital that it had two helicopters available if they’re needed.

Police have evacuated houses along Stiller Street, several blocks from the post office, while bystanders milled around West Franklin and South Sixth streets to watch the situation. At least one police sniper had taken up position atop the Schewels Furniture building, in the same block as the post office.