TENSAS PARISH, Louisiana (CNN)-
A gunman held three people hostage Tuesday inside a bank in northeastern Louisiana, as law enforcement officers, negotiators and state bomb squad members took up positions outside, a local official said.
The situation began around 1 p.m. (2 p.m. ET), when a man entered Tensas State Bank’s branch in St. Joseph and took hostages, according to Tensas Parish homeland security spokeswoman Jane Metterville.
More than three hours later, the man — equipped with a handgun — and one male and two female bank employees he’d taken hostage were still inside the building, said Metterville.
While the hostage-taker hasn’t been identified, the parish spokeswoman said “he’s believed to be an employee at a local convenience store.”
“I would say, ‘Let the people go, just let them go,'” she said, when asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer what she’d tell the gunman. “‘Don’t harm anyone. Whatever your situation is, you’re better off if you just let the hostages go and then let us deal with you, in whatever way we’ll deal with you.'”
Authorities have shut down part of the road where the bank is located in St. Joseph, but otherwise all traffic in the town is moving, Metterville said. She denied rumors that there may be explosives involved, saying “there are no confirmed bomb threats at this time.”
St. Joseph, a Mississippi River town of less than 1,200 people, is about 35 miles south of Tallulah, Louisiana, and 35 miles north of Natchez, Mississippi.
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