UPDATE: Valparaiso gunman taken to hospital in critical condition
VALPARAISO, Ind. -- It was an intense day in Valparaiso after a hostage situation started at 10:05 a.m. Friday morning inside the Prudential Executive Group Realty Office building on North Calumet Avenue.
The standoff finally came to an end nearly nine hours later when the gunman turned the gun on himself, suffering two gunshot wounds to the head. Sgt. Michael Grennes with the Valparaiso police said the gunman was rushed to Porter Hospital and is now in critical condition.
Officials said police were called to the scene for shots fired and exchanged gunfire with the suspect when they first arrived.
Witnesses say it was just before the gunfire that a female employee run out of the building. "A woman just very frantic and you could see by the look on her face how scared she was," said bystander Dan Johnson.
Witnesses say that within minutes police swarmed the area with guns drawn, putting a nearby middle school in lock down for over three hours.
"It was very scary because no one really knew what was going on. We were just told to sit down and wait, and then eventually we were told there was a hostage situation going on a half mile down from the school," said Adrienne Lineback, a student at Thomas Jefferson Middle School.
Police then worked to close the busy intersection and keep traffic out of the area while the dangerous situation continued to unfold.
Valparaiso Police say a man, armed with a handgun, walked into the building to confront an employee that, he claimed, owed him money.
Less than 10 people were reported to be in the building at the time. Police say they were able to help all but three people to safety after the initial gunfire was exchanged. With three people kept hostage inside the building police called in outside agencies including FBI agents and negotiator.
"He was held up in an office. He was isolated and we did maintain communication throughout this standoff," said Valparaiso Chief of Police Mike Brickner.
A female hostage was the first to be released due to a head wound she suffered when the gunman hit her with the back of his gun. She was treated and released. The other two hostages were unharmed and released during the last hour before the standoff ended.
Several on-lookers watched as the standoff play out to its final moments when the gunman turned his weapon on himself, just before the SWAT team used flash grenades to force its way in through a side window.
"Bam and then another bam – and then there they were just busting out the rest of the window," said Johnson.
Chief Brickner said the gunman had been to the office before, including another confrontation the day prior. Police say an employee filed a police report that day for harassment against the gunman. ABC 57 has also learned from witnesses that the man the gunman was looking for was not in the office at the time.
Officials now know the gunman is from out of state, with ties to the Valparaiso area. However, police are not releasing any other information about the gunman at this time.