Matteson, IL–(ENEWSPF)– A possible hostage situation involving an armed gunman at the Sprint Store in Matteson was resolved shortly after 8:30 p.m. Wednesday night when police discovered the alleged robber had fled before police arrived.
Police were dispatched to the Sprint Store, 4858 211th Street Matteson Center, Matteson, around 6:30 p.m. According to police at the scene, it was believed that an armed gunman was in the store holding hostages.
Employees at Panera Bread next to the Sprint Store received a call from the Matteson Police Department at approximately 6:35 p.m. advising them to put the store on lockdown. Patrons were immediately advised to vacate the front of the store and congregate an area away from windows. Meanwhile, a manager locked all doors to the establishment, advising patrons that no one was permitted to leave the store.
A strong showing of police followed shortly after, including officers and detectives from neighboring Olympia Fields and Park Forest. According to police at the scene, employees at the Sprint Store were ordered into an office by the alleged perpatrator, who then fled the store. Employees in the Sprint Store were unaware the suspect had left the building.
Police gathered outside with shotguns and shields. The alleged perpetrator was believed to be armed and in the Sprint Store. The South Suburban Emergency Response Team was called in to assist shortly after 8:00 p.m.
According to police at the time of the incident, employees and customers were being held hosgage. However, there was no confirmation on the number of people believed to be held in the Sprint store.
“I am stressed out,” Sophia Taylor of Park Forest said during the lockdown. “I want to go home,” a friend sitting near her said.
Police entered Panera at approximately 8:15 p.m. and permitted people parked on the south side of the building to leave the store. An officer gave directions to patrons who were permitted to leave, “There’s police, there’s a lot of guns out there, and we need your attention,” the officer said. He then told those leaving the route they were in their vehicles as they left the area.
Patrons with vehicles at that location were then advised to exit the store quickly.
Shortly after, armed officers entered Panera and asked all employees to exit the kitchen area for a few minutes while another officer counted the number of people in the restaurant. The crowd did quiet down considerably. Another officer asked if any of the patrons or employees were in need of any medications or other assistance.
Sam Nylen of Munster, IN, said, “I’m always parking on the south side from now on.” Nylen had parked out front.
Employees at Panera offered customers free pastries, coffee, potato chips, and soup.
Some who had planned on a relaxing evening at the restaurant made the best of things, “Panera has been very good to us. We’re having dessert and free coffee. They’re taking very good care of us, keeping spirits high,” said Sharon Penrod of Bourbonaiss, IL.
“I’d like to get on with the rest of my evening,” said one customer.
Police finally permitted patrons to leave Panera at 8:39 p.m. when it was discovered that the armed gunman was not in the Sprint Store. According to police, none of the hostages were injured — but they were frightened.
The writer was one of those under lockdown in Panera Bread. This story will be updated as suspect information becomes available.