Law enforcement officers were called to a hostage situation in Smithfield at about 4:45 p.m. Friday. Members of the Johnston County Sheriff's Department, the Smithfield Police Department, a SWAT Team, and the North Carolina Highway Patrol were all present at the scene.
There is still little known about the suspect or his motives. He held the hostages at the Factory of America outlet mall, just off Interstate-95 for over two hours.
Officers quickly surrounded the mall and cleared everyone the area.
One hostage, believed to be a woman in her 20s, was released just after 6 p.m. Negotiators were seen delivering what appeared to be soft drinks before the woman walked out of the store.
Gillikin said the hostage taker held one or two other victims. Mall marketing manager Linda Crowder said an Oneida manager and two assistant managers were being held in the store. The store sells dining room flatware, the mall's management said.
Smithfield Police Chief Steve Gillikan said officers attempted to set up negotiations with the suspect.
Capt. Rusty Stanley of the Smithfield Police Department told WRAL by phone at 6 p.m. that officers were in contact with the suspect, but that no demands had been made.
Stanley confirmed that there were Oneida employees inside the store, but did not know if there were also customers being held. It is believed all three hostages were employees.
Timothy Stephenson, who manages the Mikasa store in the same mall, also talked to WRAL-TV5 by phone. He said he believes the hostages were taken during or after an attempted robbery.
Stephenson said he had not heard any shots. Stanley said the identity of the suspect was not known, nor did police know how the robbery attempt turned into a hostage situation. He said the original call police got was a report of a robbery in progress at the store.
Authorities are asking people to stay away from the area.
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