After hearing a gunshot, the SWAT team entered the building at 211 South Wheaton Avenue. Flash-bang concussion sounds soon after led officers to stand down from their original positions around the building.
"Several flash bang grenades, several loud concussions, and on top of that there was a stretcher immediately brought in following that. We're not sure what happened on the inside, sir. But there was indeed a stretcher brought in and then brought right back out, after which another group of SWAT members penetrated the building as well. After that, about five or 10 minutes, everything seemed to stand down a little bit," said Bob Krzyzewski, witness.
Police said the incident began with a false call of a hit-and-run in the bank parking lot. When the officer responded, Long allegedly put a knife to the officer's throat and stole his gun. He then ran inside the bank.
"Apparently, the hit-and-run accident was a ruse. A call was received by dispatch on the 911 line from a cell phone stating there had been a hit-and-run accident in the parking lot of the Wheaton Bank and Trust Company there at 211 South Wheaton. That came in at 1:28 P.M.," said Dep. Chief Tom Meloni, Wheaton Police Department.
Employees watched the altercation from the four-story building.
"I saw the cop stumbling. I mean, he was visibly shaken. He went back to his car," said lawyer Shawn Flaherty.
Police said 10 to 12 people were taken hostage, but negotiations with Long led to their release. It was unclear if the suspect had any demands.
"Periodically through the afternoon, he would break officer communication, yes. We tried to keep phone contact with him all the time," Meloni said.
"First, I didn't think it was real. At first, I thought it was like a fire drill for banks, for like bank robberies. And when I saw him pointing the gun at everybody, I knew that it was not. And I was very scared," said customer Marianne MacAdam.
"He was very calm, said that he wasn't going to hurt anybody, it was just that he was having a very bad day," said Kevin MacAdam, bank customer's husband.
"SWAT came in and told us, 'Go, go, go!' And we just had to jump up and leave,' said Denice Smith, law firm employees. "We were escorted and had to run out with our hands up… It was very scary. I just want to go home and see my kids."
"We are glad our employees and customers are back home with their families. We feel for the family of the victim," said Bob Hutchinson, bank president.
Long's vehicle was towed away from the bank parking lot. And authorities say they plan to execute a search warrant at his home. Neighbors say he is married and has two children, ages 2 and 4. He reportedly worked the night shift at an office supply store. Police have already questioned them about the man.
"He asked me what he seemed like personally, and I told him, 'Yeah, he seemed like a real nice fellow," said Richard Skonning, suspect's neighbor.
Long's criminal history only included minor run-ins with police and he was not considered dangerous.
Krzyzewski said a bank executive, Ruth Carlson, was the hero of the day, running communications with the police from inside after getting a support phone from police.
"She was standing out in front holding the door, putting herself at risk between the SWAT team and the gentleman inside the bank holding everybody hostage," said Krzyzewski. "Ruth Carlson is a hero. She was watching over the people. She was one of the last people to get out of that bank after everybody else had been evacuated. Thank God everybody is safe and sound to the best of my knowledge."
Throughout the ordeal, dozens of people were seen running from the building, which houses an accounting firm and law firm on the second and third floors. The bank occupies the first floor and has offices on the fourth. Those people were bused to a nearby building for a debriefing.
"On the second floor, it's a law firm. We were on the second floor when this started. We have offices on the whole second floor," said one man. "We were taken out to stairwells . . . We knew something was going on. We didn't know what."
Metra line resumes moving through Wheaton area
The police activity impacted Metra's Union Pacific West Line train. Delays should be expected during the rush hour because of congestion.
During the height of the situation, trains were only allowed to go between downtown and Lombard at the order of police.
"Because of the situation in Wheaton and having the trains stopped along with freight trains as well, it will take some time to get things back in order and turned around for the rush hour. Most likely the trains will leave the transportation center on time but then encounter delays out there and right now we're saying because of that congestion up to an hour delays," said a Metra spokesperson.
Passengers who wish to take an alternative route can use their Metra UP West tickets on other lines.