Man releases hostage, surrenders to police in Pittsburgh

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 21, 2012 10:53 AM
Man releases hostage, surrenders to police in Pittsburgh

By Drew Singer

PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - A man armed with a kitchen knife and a hammer took a business owner hostage for several hours inside a Pittsburgh high-rise building on Friday and posted messages on Facebook before surrendering to police, officials said.

Klein Michael Thaxton, 22, released his hostage unharmed after holding him for about six hours, said Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper.

Police had been negotiating with Thaxton by telephone after he went into the 16th-floor office of 3 Gateway Center shortly after 8 a.m., grabbed his hostage and told everyone else in the office to leave, Harper said.

Thaxton did not disclose any motive to police, Harper said, but he posted several messages on Facebook during the standoff. He also posted what he said was his telephone number.

"i cant take it no more," he wrote in one Facebook message.

"this life im livn rite now i dnt want anymore ive lost everything and i aint getting it back," said another message.

Police asked Facebook to take down his page and as of midday it was not longer visible.

Police originally thought Thaxton was armed with a bomb and a gun but he revealed following his surrender that he was carrying only a kitchen knife and a hammer, Harper said.

His hostage was Charles Breitsman, the owner of CW Breitsman Associates, which handles company benefits and union pensions.

Thaxton chose Breitsman at random, choosing his office because it had no security, Harper said.

Thaxton eventually emerged with his hands in the air and surrendered to police. Once in custody, Thaxton was charged with kidnapping, making terroristic threats and aggravated assault. He was undergoing a psychological evaluation, police said.

Thaxton had been living in a so-called three-quarters house - transitional housing for people newly released from prison - after being incarcerated for carjacking, Harper said.

His messages prompted many people to respond on Facebook, saying they were praying for him and encouraging him to cooperate with police. A separate site was set up called Dont Do This Klein Thaxton, also filled with supportive messages.

However, others urged him on Facebook to extend his standoff, and they could face criminal charges as accessories, Harper said.

Thaxton was contacted by people on Facebook some 700 times before his page was taken down, Harper said.

On Facebook, Thaxton also wrote: "welln pops youll never have to worry about me again you'll nevr need to by me anything no need to ever waste ur hard earned money on me. i'll live n jail you dnt want me around anymore thats kool bye..."

Thaxton's mother, Ronda Thaxton, told reporters her son had served in the U.S. Army. She spoke to him inside the building during the standoff and emerged visibly distraught.

(Additional reporting by Matthew Keys; writing by Ellen Wulfhorst; editing by Jackie Frank and Mohammad Zargham)