Hostage escapes gunman, 3 officers injured in Nebraska drugstore hold up

A man held hostage for hours Tuesday by a gunman in a western Nebraska drugstore has escaped but was wounded while getting away, police said.

The gunman is blamed for shooting and wounding two city police officers and a state patrol officer, Nebraska State Patrol Lt. Lance Rogers said. None of their injuries is life-threatening.

Rogers also said police found a body Tuesday in a nearby home, but he declined to say whether it is related to the standoff. Police don't know how that person died, Rogers said.

The gunman remained holed up in the store alone, and police were trying to negotiate for his surrender.

Rogers said the hostage "escaped on his own" and was wounded. He had no details on how the hostage escaped and he didn't know the nature of the man's injuries.

Authorities wouldn't release information on the gunman because they can't confirm who he is, Rogers said.

"He might be listening to the press conference," Rogers said, referring to a news briefing that was broadcast on local radio stations.

The standoff began Tuesday morning when the gunman entered the Thiele Pharmacy & Gifts in the center of downtown Alliance, a city of about 8,600 people.

"When we woke this morning in the best hometown in America, little did anyone in our wildest dreams foresee what would transpire today," said Mayor Fred Feldges.

Authorities said that officers responded after an apparent botched robbery.

Alliance Police Chief John Kiss said the gunman shot officers Matt Shannon, 35, and Kirk Felker, 43.

Shannon was treated at Box Butte General Hospital and released. Felker also was taken to the hospital and was recovering, Kiss said.

Later, state trooper Tim Flick, 37, was wounded. He remained hospitalized Tuesday night.

The standoff prompted police to close off several blocks of downtown Alliance throughout the day. Much of downtown remained blocked late Tuesday.

Ray Hielscher told the Lincoln Journal Star that he was watching the pharmacy from a Radio Shack across the street and saw the hostage run out about 5:30 p.m. Hielscher said he heard shots as the hostage ran out the front door and made it to safety to nearby police.

Earlier in the day, Dixie Nelson, director of the Alliance Chamber of Commerce, said she looked out the window of her organization's offices across the street from the pharmacy after an employee heard a gunshot.

"We had just come out of a staff meeting," Nelson said. "Our administrative assistant was walking up to the front, and she heard the shot."

Nelson said she saw a wounded police officer, who was shot in an arm while standing outside the pharmacy. It appeared the shot was fired through the glass on the store's door or window.

"He was shot in the arm. I could see. Either his upper forearm or bicep area," Nelson said.

Alliance is in the Nebraska Panhandle, about 370 miles west Omaha and 190 miles from Denver.