JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – None of the 13 people inside the Community First Credit Union in Northwest Jacksonville will ever forget what unfolded Thursday morning, when police say a gunman came into the branch and took them hostage. But each of the hostages have their own, individual recount of the terrifying ordeal that transpired over a span of two hours.
One of those held hostage was Roger Green, who said he spent the entire time praying.
“I was trying to get some bills paid, and information, and before I could get that straightened out, this man done walked out and come back in with his dog, and he shot off into the roof, and I took off,” Green said.
According to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Nicholas Humphrey walked into the credit union on Edgewood Avenue West just after 9 a.m. with a dog, dog food and a gun.
Green said he didn’t hear the man utter a word.
“But I heard that bullet say, ‘pop,’” Green said. “I took off, me, a lady and a man. And we locked the door and I got on my back on the floor in there and the man got on a table and the lady was on the side of the door.”
After hearing the gunshot, Green said, he ran like he never ran before into an officer just a few feet away, where he and two others locked themselves inside the room and remained silent.
“I was praying the entire time that he didn't come through that door,” Green said.
Inside the room, Green said, he played dead for the entire two hours.
“I stayed in that room on my back,” he said. “Until that machine came and knocked that door open.”
Another hostage, Frank Brown, said that he and a woman were hidden, and the suspect didn’t know they were there. They eventually decided to make a run for the door.
“I wanted to go forward, but I went sideways and took out a whole row of chairs,” Brown said. “He heard the noise and thought they were coming in, and that's what really, what gave everyone a chance to get away.”
That move allowed a SWAT team to enter the credit union, police said, and Humphrey surrendered.
Green said he's thankful no one was physically injured, but doctors did have to give him an IV after the ordeal.
“They were working on my blood because my blood pressure was up. It was up this morning, and so after all that went on, it went on, (it went up) even more,” he said.
Green shared what words he had for Humphrey, who was booked into the Duval County Jail on 13 counts of kidnapping, one count of armed robbery and one count of auto theft.
“All I can say is God is still good, and if you don't know God, you need to know him right now, not later, now, because life ain’t promised to nobody,” Green said.
Psychologist: Though no one was physically injured, hostages may suffer emotionally
The 13 people who were taken hostage Thursday morning at the Community First Credit Union were able to escape physically unharmed, according to police. But mental health experts believe they could suffer psychological problems after the terrifying ordeal.
Stephen Bloomfield, a forensic psychologist at Bloomfield Psychological Service, said the hostages’ life patterns could be altered, which is something that their family members need to look out for.
“The hostages, we have to watch a little. If they're anxious and nervous for 24 or 48 hours, that's OK. If they continue to be anxious and nervous after that, like, go to work, or going into banks, or being around a lot of people, losing sleep, having nightmares, having flashbacks, they should check in with somebody,” Bloomfield said.
Bloomfield said families should hold their loved ones who went through the ordeal accountable by urging them to seek mental help if they experience a change in behavior. For example, if someone who is usually outgoing suddenly stops going out because they know a lot of people will be at a certain place.
How to respond in hostage situation
Bank employees are trained on how to handle robberies, but many people may not know how to respond if they find themselves in the middle of a bank robbery or a hostage situation.
Gil Smith, News4Jax crime and safety analyst, said the mentality to adapt in a crisis like the one Thursday is to comply and cooperate.
"The important thing to remember is the first 15 to 45 minutes are the most dangerous part of the hostage situation, because the perpetrator, he's in panic mode. He's not sure what to do," Smith said.
Smith, who spent two decades as a police officer in Jacksonville, said that not resisting is the key for anyone who is ever in a hostage situation.
"You don't want to resist. You don't even want to speak to them unless they speak to you, or unless you absolutely have to. You don't want to give them too much more to think about, or concentrate on," Smith said.
Be observant and take mental notes as well, Smith added.
According to Smith, a low profile is the best way to avoid being hurt, as well as being patient and polite. But the hardest decision may be whether, and if, or when, to fight.
"That's a really tough question, when should you run, when should you fight? It really depends on your skills and ability and what's going on with the perpetrators. How dangerous you think they may be. But one of the biggest things early on is to really be polite to them, try to build a rapport and get on their side," Smith said.
That doesn't apply to everyone, but Smith said it's important to get rid of anything that hostage takers may view as a threat in order to stay safe and unharmed.