David G. Grant; The Detroit News December 18, 2000, Monday Copyright 2000 The Detroit News, Inc. The Detroit News December 18, 2000, Monday
( LATHRUP VILLAGE, Mich. ) -- A gunman surrendered to police Sunday after holding two restaurant employees hostage for about 90 minutes when an armed robbery went awry.
But the gunman's partner apparently escaped out the front of the Mr. Pita sandwich shop on Southfield Road and Santa Rosa Boulevard while the suspect was guarding the back door, Police Chief Robert Jones said.
The incident began about 3:30 p.m. when two men armed with pistols announced the robbery and one of them forced the two sandwich shop employees into the rear of the building while the other watched the front door.
The suspect was distracted by one employee getting him the day's receipts and the other employee alerted police, who arrived just as the suspect was going out the back door, Jones said.
The suspect darted back into the rear of the restaurant, the stand-off began and nearby businesses were evacuated.
"The cops ran in and said the place is being evacuated, there's a barricaded gunman in Mr. Pita," said Max Reichstein of Southfield, who was shopping at Talking Book World. "I took their advice and left fast. I ran to the front, ran to my car and took off."
At about the same time, apparently unknown to the robber in the back of the restaurant, his buddy in the front had fled out the front door, leaving him alone, Jones said.
About 5 p.m. the suspect, who is expected to be arraigned today on robbery charges, surrendered, releasing the two employees he was holding hostage.
The man was convinced his buddy, who he said was named Larry, still was inside and officers repeatedly called out over a loudspeaker to him.
"Larry, you are not going anywhere and we are not going anywhere," a police negotiator repeatedly said, trying to get Larry to give himself up. "We are not going to shoot you."
About 7:40 p.m., a 10-man Southfield Police SWAT unit stormed the shop, but found no one. They even carried a ladder in and checked the rafters but found no one.
During the incident, police closed Southfield Road between 11 Mile and 12 Mile, snarling traffic. About 8 p.m. the roads were reopened.