By Manuel Ernesto Rivera, The Associated Press
BAYAMON, Puerto Rico (AP) -- A masked man who stormed a bank Tuesday,
demanded money and took seven employees hostage surrendered
peacefully to police in a standoff that lasted about three hours.
The man entered the bank shortly after it opened. Waving a gun, he
announced the robbery and within minutes an alarm sounded.
Police SWAT teams and hostage negotiators raced to the Banco Popular
branch in suburban Bayamon and surrounded the building. One woman was
freed and two others followed in the first two hours of the standoff.
About an hour later, police emerged with the man, who was wearing a
black ski mask. Paramedics entered the bank to treat four other
employees who had been held hostage. No injuries were reported.
The assailant was demanding $50,000 in cash, said Puerto Rico Police
Superintendent Agustin Cartagena, who was on the first day of the job
after the Senate confirmed his nomination Monday.
"He was alleging that he needed the money to pay off a drug debt that
he had," Cartagena said. The suspect faces kidnapping and weapons
charges at the local and federal levels, authorities said.
Two other men were also detained on suspicion of involvement in the
robbery, Cartagena said.
Crime has been rising in the U.S. Caribbean territory of 4 million
people. On Friday, a man robbed a Banco Santander of nearly $3,500 in
There have been four bank robberies on the island this year and none
of them have been solved, police said. There were 38 bank robberies
last year and seven remain unsolved.
Since Jan. 1, police have reported 67 homicides -- 17 more compared
to the same period last year. There were 780 killings in 2003
compared to 781 in 2002.
Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
About 80 percent of the violence is drug-related, police say.