Armed Man Surrenders, Releases Hostage In Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - An armed man held a business owner hostage for several hours inside a Pittsburgh high-rise building on Friday, posting messages on Facebook during his standoff with police, before surrendering, officials said.

The suspect, identified as 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 since he went into the 16th-floor office shortly after 8 a.m. and took business owner Charles Breitsman hostage, Harper said.

The suspect originally claimed to have a bomb and a gun but police said later they did not think he was carrying explosives.

The hostage is owner of CW Breitsman Associates, which handles company benefits and union pensions, but Thaxton did not have any known connection to the company and seemed to have chosen Breitsman at random, 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.

After several hours, police had Facebook remove the page and it was no longer visible.

Harper said during the standoff that police were concerned that Thaxton wanted to end his life.

"He doesn't want help. He doesn't want to live," the police chief said shortly before Thaxton emerged from the office with his hands in the air.

Police spokeswoman Diane Richard said: "He is a sick young man."

Thaxton was taken into police custody, while his hostage was reunited with his family.

During the standoff, Thaxton's mother was taken inside the building to talk to her son, but she told police did not know his motive, Harper said.

As she left the building, she was visibly distraught.

"I just want him to get the help he needs," she said, refusing to give her name.

Thaxton had been calm and cooperative with police throughout the incident, Harper said.

Several people responded to Thaxton on Facebook saying they were praying for him and encouraging him to cooperate with police.

But others urged him to continue his standoff, Harper said. Police were monitoring those Facebook messages and those people could face criminal charges as accessories, he 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..."

Police said the suspect was believed to be ex-military, and Thaxton's mother confirmed that her son had served in the U.S. Army.

The situation was contained to the office and rest of the building was not evacuated, although police cordoned off several nearby streets.

(Additional reporting by Matthew Keys; Writing by Ellen Wulfhorst, editing by Jackie Frank)

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