TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Around 11:14 p.m. Thursday night, Troy Police patrol officers responded to a reported hostage situation at the Stewart’s Shop on Vandenburgh Avenue. Arriving at the scene, officers said they saw two employees in the store with another individual. All three were men.
Police said there was also significant damage to the front of the building when they first arrived. The suspect inside the building was standing behind the counter, and police said he was holding a pair of scissors to the throat of one employee.
Officers took positions outside the store and the Crisis Negotiation Team established communication with the suspect through the broken front door. Within a few minutes, the suspect released one of the employees but continued to stand behind the second, while police say he held the weapon to the employee’s throat.
After nearly an hour of negotiations, the suspect released the second employee, put down his alleged weapon, and surrendered to officers without incident. The surrender and hostage release came about after police staged a phony on-camera interview with the help of NEWS10 photographer Ken Rader.
“We commandeered their camera, we made sure that it was not actually recording but that the top spotlight was on there,” Sgt. Nicholas Laviano said. “We dressed up one of our officers as a cameraman and we walked up to the entrance with myself and Officer Fitch and began to, what he believed, was record him and allow him to tell his story that he wished to get out there.”
The suspect was removed from the scene and taken to a local hospital for an evaluation. The location and hostages appear to have been chosen at random, according to police, and the suspect’s actions appear to be the result of a mental health crisis. The incident is still being investigated and criminal charges are pending.
Troy Police Cpt. Raymond White said that thanks to the excellent work by members of the crisis negotiation team, no injuries were reported in the incident. White believes they achieved the best possible outcome.
The crisis negotiation team is trained to handle mental health crises with the goal of de-escalation. “What we can do is help de-escalate the situation in a non-violent way,” Laviano said. “Even if we have to sit there for two, three, four hours and continue to talk to that individual and we were ready and willing to do that with this individual. There are some times where we get on a call and we are not so sure where it might end.”
A nearby resident said he heard a banging sound thinking it was fireworks. He said he was not concerned, but thinks there should be more resources for people struggling with mental health to avoid more situations like this. “They have to have more control over these type of people who act out sporadically, or they have to make sure they are medicated and keep up with their medication,” Tavel Harris said. “Or stuff like this will happen.”
Stewart’s Shops also released a statement:
“We are happy that our Partners involved are safe. We can’t thank the first responders and the Troy PD enough for their prompt response and swift action to deescalate the situation. The safety and well-being of our Partners is always a top priority.”