By JOhn Seewer
TOLEDO, Ohio — A man who police say was distraught over his pending divorce and whose mortgage business was failing surrendered after holding his estranged wife at gunpoint at a retirement community for about five hours Tuesday, police said.
It was the second time in little over a month that he had held police at bay during a domestic dispute, police said.
Following hours of negotiating Tuesday, the estranged wife of Michael Swiergosz walked outside wearing a robe and ran to safety alongside a police officer. "She was calm but worn out," said police Capt. Ron Navarro.
Officers took Michael Swiergosz, wearing a suit jacket and handcuffs, to a police van a few minutes later.
Hostage negotiators had been talking with Swiergosz and his estranged wife, Barbara, since he walked into the Sunset House assisted-living center in the morning, pointed a gun at an employee and told her to call his wife, who works there, police said.
"He did a lot of crying and he talked a lot about his family and his children," said Police Chief Mike Navarre.
The couple were in the process of divorcing and his once-thriving business was in trouble, Navarre said.
"That success apparently didn't do too well when the economy went bad," the police chief said. "I don't know if that had any impact at all on his actions today."
Police said the couple have four children, including a newborn who was in day care at the retirement center when the standoff began.
Swiergosz locked himself with his wife in an empty apartment and all residents were moved from the area, Navarre said.
At some point, Swiergosz hit his wife on the head with a crowbar, but she appeared to be OK, Navarre said.
Swiergosz was calm and rational most of the time, Navarre said. His wife held up amazingly well, the police chief said.
A woman who answered the phone at the home during the standoff said residents and staff were safe and the building was secure. The site also houses the corporate offices of Sunset Retirement Communities, which operates Sunset House and two other homes in the area.
The assisted-living center is in a Tudor-style mansion built in the late 1920s. It's in one of the city's most exclusive neighborhoods.
Barbara Swiergosz's mother told WTOL that the 46-year-old Swiergosz has abused his wife and threatened to kill her and their daughter.
Last month, Swiergosz held off Lucas County Sheriff's deputies for three hours at his suburban Springfield Township home after authorities responded to a report of gunfire.
Swiergosz barricaded himself after arguing with his wife, authorities said. Police said Swiergosz fired two shots - one into the ground and one in the air - before they arrived, The (Toledo) Blade reported.
Swiergosz has pleaded not guilty to two counts of felonious assault stemming from that standoff. He posted a $25,000 bond April 20, and he faces a June 10 trial and up to 16 years in prison if convicted.
The Blade said Swiergosz's home is scheduled for sheriff's sale May 13.
Swiergosz is listed as the founder of Lambertville. Mich.-based Money Minders Inc., which provides mortgage loans and home refinancing. Swiergosz held a real estate license from 1992 to 2002 and has more than 20 years of experience in the mortgage industry, a company Web site said.
Authorities locked down area schools after police received the first emergency call at 11:26 a.m.
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The all-girls St. Ursula Academy, a private high school across the street from the retirement home, was released from lockdown at about 1:30 p.m., school spokeswoman Julie Funk said. Students began leaving the school when classes ended for the day at about 3 p.m.