Refinery standoff ends peacefully

February 11, 2010 2:14:57 PM PST
A 12-hour barricade situation between police and a man inside a southwest suburban McCook plant came to an end just before 6 a.m. Thursday. The standoff ended peacefully as Lowell Aughenbaugh, 47, surrendered without having taken hostages, but there had been concern that he could have been armed or could had explosives on him. It's still unknown if he was armed or what firearms he had on him; federal agents would not comment.

Aughenbaugh is the manager of the oil recycling facility for 15 years. It all started at about 5 p.m. Wednesday. Aughenbaugh is facing a warrant for federal charges from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Agents tried to arrest him at Ortek, Inc., 7601 W. 47th St., but he barricaded himself inside.

He faces charges of holding 90-plus firearms in a Missouri home. Aughenbaugh has a history of mental illness and was reportedly not on his medication. He was living on the McCook plant property during the week and then would head to his home in Missouri on the weekends. The two-story building has a storage area on the first level and a living area on its upper level, McCook Police Chief Frank Wolfe said.

"We're pleased with the outcome. We made entry into the premises where he was held up, and he was taken into custody without incident," said Thomas Ahern, ATF.

No one was hurt. Aughenbaugh was taken into custody. He still faces those federal charges from the initial warrant, but it's unknown what charges he could face from the barricade incident.

Prior to SWAT officers taking Aughenbaugh into custody, they had shouted commands through a loudspeaker and also tried the man's cell phone in an attempt to contact him, Wolfe said.

Wolfe said Aughenbaugh was going through a divorce and had been arrested three weeks earlier in Missouri, where his estranged wife lives.

Aughenbaugh had been charged with weapons possession in Missouri and bonded out, the chief said.

"We're using extreme caution because this man has a military background and has had a history of making anti-government remarks," Ahern said during the standoff. "We don't know for sure if he has any weapons with him, but he may be able to manufacture some weapons on the premises."

A hazmat alarm that was initially called because of the nature of the materials inside was canceled at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Wolfe said. He said the possibility was "very slim" for any type of explosion to occur.

The company is an oil refinery plant that processes used oil, and is open 24 hours. There were three employees who remained working inside the facility, as they have to operate the plant, Wolfe said.

Wolfe said he has known Aughenbaugh professionally for 15 years through his work at the plant.

Wolfe described him as "a smart gentleman" who had never been arrested in McCook before. Wolfe has been the chief of police for 32 years.

Wolfe had no knowledge of any anti-government sentiments the plant manager might hold.

"I don't have a clue why he's doing this," Wolfe said before the man was arrested. "Our main objective is to get everyone out of here safe."

While Wolfe could not confirm if the man has suffered mental illness in the past but said actions during the standoff seemed to say otherwise.

"I'd have to say he's mentally unstable now with the decisions he is making,'' Wolfe said before the arrest.

(The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.)