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Gunman dies after 14-hour Neb. standoff

Shooter injured two officers and held a store owner hostage

By Josh Funk
Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. — A gunman who held a pharmacy owner hostage at his store in rural western Nebraska is dead after a 14-hour standoff, the Nebraska State Patrol said early Wednesday.

The gunman, 27-year-old Andres Gonzales, died after a shoot-out with Nebraska State Patrol SWAT team members at the pharmacy in Alliance, patrol spokeswoman Deb Collins said in a statement.

None of the SWAT officers were injured. Gonzales earlier shot one city police officer and a state patrol officer. A second city police officer was injured by shrapnel. None of the officers suffered life-threatening injuries.

The statement did not explain how Gonzales, of Alliance, died. Under state law, a grand jury must review Gonzales' death because police were trying to arrest him when he was shot and killed.

The standoff began Tuesday morning when Gonzales entered the Thiele Pharmacy & Gifts in downtown Alliance, a Nebraska Panhandle city of about 8,600 people. Authorities said police officers responded to reports of a robbery.

Gonzales took the pharmacy's owner, 62-year-old Charles Lierk, hostage for hours, Collins said. Lierk managed to escape but was shot as he ran and is in stable condition, Collins said. Police and the state patrol did not say who shot Lierk.

Ray Hielscher told the Lincoln Journal Star that he was watching the pharmacy from a Radio Shack across the street and saw the hostage run out about 5:30 p.m. Hielscher said he heard shots as the hostage ran out the front door and made it to nearby police.

Separately, police found a body at a nearby home Tuesday but declined to say whether it was related to the standoff. Police don't know how that person died, Nebraska State Patrol Lt. Lance Rogers said.

The standoff prompted police to close off several blocks of downtown Alliance, where residents were shaken by the drama.

"When we woke this morning in the best hometown in America, little did anyone in our wildest dreams foresee what would transpire today," said Mayor Fred Feldges.

Most of downtown Alliance remained blocked off for the investigation Wednesday morning and will likely remain closed for the rest of the day, City Manager J.D. Cox said.

Alliance lies about 370 miles west Omaha and 190 miles from Denver.

Alliance Police Chief John Kiss said Gonzales shot Kirk Felker, 43, in an exchange of gunfire during the initial response. Felker had surgery at Box Butte General Hospital and was recovering.

Later, state trooper Tim Flick, 37, was shot and wounded, and Alliance Police Officer Matt Shannon, 35, suffered a shrapnel wound.

Dixie Nelson, director of the Alliance Chamber of Commerce, said she looked out the window of her office across the street from the pharmacy after an employee heard a gunshot Tuesday.

Nelson said she saw a police officer who had been shot 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.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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