02/24/2006

Gunman takes as many as nine hostages in Phoenix high-rise

By BETH DeFALCO
Associated Press Writer

PHOENIX- A gunman held up to nine people hostage Thursday in an office in a central Phoenix high-rise, a police spokesman said.

Sgt. Andy Hill said everyone was inside a hearing room in a National Labor Relations Board office on the 18th floor. The floors immediately above and below were evacuated.

"We are not aware that anyone has been hurt or that any shots have been fired," Hill said.

He said police were talking with the gunman but didn't give details.

Police had also contacted members of the hostage-taker's family and relatives of some of the hostages.

Hill said the gunman had also been in touch with members of his family, though he didn't say how.

Relatives of the hostages and co-workers were at a nearby restaurant, said Phoenix Fire Department spokesman Mike Sandulak.

Cornele Overstreet, a regional director for the National Labor Relations Board, told the local Fox affiliate that the gunman had grabbed a secretary as she was coming out of a bathroom.

The man "shouted out something and dragged her" into a room and closed the door, Overstreet told the television station.

The incident happened during what Overstreet called a "litigated trial" at the office.

Sioux Jeffrey, who works in another office on the same floor, said a man from the labor office came into her workplace "and told us to evacuate. 'There's a man with a gun.' "

Everyone walked out quietly and went down the stairs, she said.

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