ALLIANCE, Neb. — A gunman wounded two officers and was holding at least one hostage inside a western Nebraska drugstore after a botched robbery attempt, authorities said Tuesday.
Alliance City Manager J.D. Cox said the gunman inside Thiele Pharmacy & Gifts was believed to be heavily armed and that there was "tremendous concern" for the hostage. Officers were negotiating with the armed man nearly eight hours after the standoff began Tuesday morning.
Nebraska State Patrol spokeswoman Deb Collins said a SWAT team was on the scene, which she described as an "extremely dangerous" situation. Entire downtown blocks in the 8,600-resident town of Alliance were shut down.
Cox said an Alliance police officer was shot in an arm early in the standoff and a state trooper was wounded later in the morning. Collins said both were taken to Box Butte General Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
A hospital spokeswoman declined to comment about the officers' conditions.
Alliance spokeswoman Annora Bentley said police also are investigating a homicide that happened at a separate Alliance location before the standoff began. She declined to release further details about the homicide and said she didn't know if police had linked the two incidents.
Dixie Nelson, director of the Alliance Chamber of Commerce, said she looked out the window of her organization's offices across the street from the pharmacy after an employee heard a gunshot.
"We had just come out of a staff meeting," Nelson said. "Our administrative assistant was walking up to the front and she heard the shot."
Nelson said she saw the wounded police officer, who was shot in an arm while standing outside the pharmacy. It appeared the shot was fired through the glass on the store's door or window.
"He was shot in the arm. I could see. Either his upper forearm or bicep area," Nelson said.
John Weare, managing editor of the Alliance Times-Herald newspaper, said his downtown building's front door has been locked since the incident began and that no one had left the building by early Tuesday afternoon.
Alliance is in the Nebraska Panhandle, about 370 miles west Omaha and 190 miles from Denver.
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Copyright 2012 Associated Press