Authorities say a police negotiator is on the scene after a gunman took three people hostage at a bank in rural Louisiana Tuesday.
KNOE reports the three hostages are likely employees at the Tensas State Bank in St. Joseph, La., southeast of Monroe. Police say the man is likely armed with some sort of automatic weapon.
Col. Mike Edmonson, head of Louisiana State Police, said he believed that a nearby convenience store was evacuated, but there were few other occupied buildings within the perimeter that state police and the FBI set up.
St. Joseph is a town of nearly 1,200 people and nearly one-third of the parish’s 5,000 residents live under the federal poverty level, according to U.S. Census figures.
Farmland makes up more than 45 percent of the 600-square-mile parish, with most of it in cotton, feed grains, soybeans and wheat.
Richardo Miles, a 25-year-old farmworker, said he lives about a half-mile from the bank. He sat on his bicycle at a roadblock near an abandoned hardware store about a quarter-mile away, watching dozens of first responders, including paramedics and heavily armed men in camouflage.
The sight of the state police bomb squad and SWAT team unnerved many people in the sleepy farm town, Miles said.
“It’s kind of startling for the residents. We’re not accustomed to this kind of activity,” said Miles. “Some people are pretty scared. They’re nervous.”