The nature of our business is the last-minute call at any time of the day or night, and such was the case on Wednesday night. Our assignment came at 8 p.m. Pacific time. The call came to go to a little central valley foothill town of Exeter, Calif. There a gunman had taken eight people hostage inside a bank and he was demanding money and a car.
I hung up the phone, took my last bite of almond-crusted tilapia and started throwing stuff into a bag. At the same time I was on the cell phone and Blackberry getting directions, locations and coordinating with our crew. Within an hour or so we had an SUV with a photographer, producer and myself, headed toward Exeter. Also on the way, our satellite truck with two engineers.
In L.A. there are few times traffic is light and we found one of them. By 10 p.m. we were smack dab into the agricultural darkness of California's central valley. Highway 99 was also open and we had radios, phones and Blackberries working overtime. The good news kept coming. A hostage and her baby had been released, along with a couple of others. Also, the gunman was said to be calm.
As we arrive in town after midnight and step out into the crisp, icebox air of Exeter, we hear the news that two of the remaining three hostages had made a successful, yet daring, dash from the bank. Now inside — just one.
Over the course of the next few hours, we watched and kept vigil one block down from the Bank of America. The air is cold and the night is still. I can see the Tulare County SWAT team piled up at the bank's front door. There are more than 50 officers who have surrounded every inch of this location. They are corralled inside a yellow-tape line that keeps the media and public a safe distance away. But our one-block long view is virtually unobstructed.
As we watch and wait, I survey the quaint downtown area, now the site of such tense times. If there was ever a “Mayberry” in California, this was it. The hardware store has a local name, as does the sundry shop and the gift store. More impressive are the historical murals that adorn many of these old-time brick buildings that haven't been tagged. No graffiti has ruined the artist’s original intent.
At 3:20 a.m. adrenaline warms the winter chill. The SWAT team has pulled down their face guards and grabbed their shields. At this point we had done our live shots in the opposite direction as to not give the suspect any helpful information, in case he might be watching TV. But now action is happening. The operation is on and our police monitor has no problem as our camera swings into action.
The men go in. Officers draw their weapons. We see a woman — we think. She appears fine and is whisked away. Just then, the officer assigned to our area says with a relieved gasp, "They've got him!”
I ask if everyone is safe. He responds, with full relief, "Yes."
We see the man who is pulled out the door and led quickly to a squad car. The 10 1/2 hour ordeal is over and everyone is safe.
This is now one of those good stories. One we all wish happened more often. A gunman, who for some ridiculous reason thinks he can cheat the world, has been safely captured. No officers were hurt. No bystanders were caught in the crossfire. The hostages escape with only rattled nerves and quite a story to tell their grandchildren.
We hear the capture came thanks to a pack of cigarettes. The suspect asked for some, sent his only hostage to retrieve them, only to find himself alone. Then the bank was stormed. No word if he ever got that last smoke.
Adam Housley joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 2001 and currently serves as a Los Angeles-based senior correspondent.