A SWAT team freed 12 employees and two customers believed to be held hostage Monday inside a McDonald's by an armed man for nearly three hours, but they never found a gunman, police said.

No one was injured, and police were trying to figure out whether the man somehow got away or if someone had perpetrated a hoax.

"Anything's possible," Hampton police spokeswoman Cpl. Allison Good said. "That's why they're still working it, to prove this actually occurred or that maybe it's a joke. It's one of those things that we can't take lightly."

A man called police at about 2 p.m. from the restaurant to say he was armed but made no demands, Good said. She said he made a few other comments but she declined to elaborate.

Officers arrived at the McDonald's as a few customers were leaving, and they saw a man they thought was the caller but were unable to confirm that he was armed, she said. The customers police saw leaving the restaurant were not hostages and may not even have been aware of the situation, she said.

A SWAT team surrounded the building and police hostage negotiators tried, but failed, to contact the man, Good said.

Police also set up a command post near the restaurant, blocked traffic within a half-mile radius and asked people in nearby buildings to remain indoors.

At about 4:40 p.m, SWAT team members went into the McDonald's and freed 14 people, Good said. Police were interviewing the people, she said. She had no details from those interviews.

Police continued to try to contact the man. At about 5:30 p.m., the SWAT team went back into the restaurant to search it but found no one, Good said.