EXETER, Calif. – Ending a 10 1/2-hour standoff, SWAT officers stormed a bank early Thursday and seized a hold-up man who had taken eight hostages with what turned out to be a pellet gun.
The officers moved in after using a pack of Kool cigarettes to trick him into letting go of his last hostage. They left the cigarettes just outside the front door, and when he let the hostage retrieve them, officers pulled her to safety.
No injuries were reported.
"This is a great ending for everybody involved," sheriff's Lt. Keith Douglas said.
Jess Martinez, 47, an unemployed car salesman, was jailed on suspicion of bank robbery and hostage-taking.
Martinez entered the Bank of America branch Wednesday afternoon and demanded money, police said. He took eight people hostage after employees alerted police, but released three of them within 10 minutes, and set two more free about 10 p.m. in exchange for fried chicken, authorities said.
After midnight, the three remaining hostages — all bank employees — tried to escape, but Martinez grabbed one and pulled her back inside, Police Chief Clifton Bush said.
About 3:30 a.m., as police were rescuing the final hostage, another SWAT team stormed the bank and captured Martinez without a struggle, authorities said.
During negotiations, some of the hostages were able to call family members.
Margie Riportella, who with her baby daughter was among those first released, said the man was carrying a briefcase and appeared to be unstable. She said he kept all the hostages in the middle of the room.
"It was totally weird. He was 'out there,"' Riportella told the Visalia Times-Delta.
Exeter is a San Joaquin Valley city of about 10,000 residents 150 miles north of Los Angeles.