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Gunman holds 2 employees hostage in northeast Louisiana bank

Louisiana Bank Hostage Standoff

Emergency vehicles are on the scene of a hostage situation in Tensas Parish. Louisiana State Police have confirmed there are three hostages and one gunman in Tensas State Bank in St. Joseph.

(CNN) — A 20-year-old man holed up Tuesday night in a rural Louisiana bank — with two bank employees he’s holding at gunpoint — as a slew of law enforcement took up positions outside, hoping and working for a peaceful resolution.

“We have enough individuals here to take as long as we need to make sure that our goal is in place, and that’s to get these hostages out … safely,” Louisiana State Police Col. Michael Edmonson told CNN’s Anderson Cooper around 7:20 p.m. (8:20 p.m. ET). “They are the most important to me … And, of course, the (gunman) himself is last.”

The ordeal began around 12:30 p.m., when the man entered Tensas State Bank’s branch in St. Joseph, Louisiana, with a handgun apparently intent on robbing it, according to Edmonson.

For whatever reason, he ended up staying there and taking three bank employees, two women and one man, hostage. The state police leader said he wasn’t sure “what statement (the suspect) was trying to make or (if) something … just went bad,” adding there was “no reason for him to want these particular individuals in the bank.”

One of the three employees — a female — was released after these talks, Tensas Parish homeland security spokeswoman Jane Netterville said shortly before 9 p.m. The two others, and the hostage-taker, remained then inside the bank.

Born in California, the hostage-taker moved with his family to northeastern Louisiana, where his family owns a convenience store, Edmonson said.

The Mississippi River community of St. Joseph has about 1,200 people — of about 5,000 people in the entire parish — and is located about 35 miles south of Tallulah, Louisiana, and 35 miles north of Natchez, Mississippi.

After word got out about the hostage situation, local, state and federal law enforcement agents — including from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security — descended on the quiet community.

Law enforcement agents have been able to talk to the hostages. They’ve also spoken with the gunman, who Edmonson said “has made some demands of us.” He did not elaborate.

“We’re walking through those, we’re trying to talk to him very calm,” the police colonel said. “… We believe (the hostages) to be safe. We know him to be armed.”

Authorities shut down part of the road where the bank is located in St. Joseph, but otherwise all traffic in the town is moving, Netterville said. She denied rumors that there may be explosives involved, saying “there are no confirmed bomb threats at this time.”

Edmonson said he’s talking to relatives of the hostages and that some of the suspect’s relatives have tried to approach the area.

Asked by CNN what she’d tell the gunman, Netterville said, “I would say, ‘Let the people go, just let them go.'”

“‘Don’t harm anyone. Whatever your situation is, you’re better off if you just let the hostages go and then let us deal with you, in whatever way we’ll deal with you.'”

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