73ºF

Man accused of taking 13 hostages in confrontation 11 hours earlier

Police say Nicholas Humphrey fired shot, held gun to heads, threatened to kill

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The 23-year-old man accused of firing a gun inside a Northwest Jacksonville credit union Thursday morning and threatening to kill hostages during a two-hour standoff with police had been in a confrontation with people at a laundromat the night before.

Nicholas Humphrey was ordered held without bond Friday morning at his first appearance on an armed robbery charge, plus $100,000 bond on each of 13 counts of kidnapping and $50,000 more on an auto theft charge.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said Humphrey came into the Community First Credit Union in Northwest Jacksonville shortly after it opened Thursday with a dog, dog food and a gun and took 13 hostages. He was taken into custody and the hostages were freed when two of those hostages made a run for the door and the SWAT team used the distraction to storm the building.

The hostages, seven of whom were employees at the credit union, were escorted out safely by SWAT officers. There were no injuries.

According to a JSO incident report, police were called to a disturbance at a laundromat on Merrill Road at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, where Humphrey was accused of harassing customers. 

UNCUT: Laundromat surveillance video

A customer at the laundromat who didn't want to give her name used told News4Jax that Humphrey mumbled something to her when she was at her and she tried to ignore him.

When I got back to the door he said, "Do you have any kids with you?" I was like, 'No.' And he said, 'You need to turn around and leave this laundromat right now." I was like, 'Why? This laundromat is 24 hours.' He was like, 'Look into my eyes and I'm telling you right now, if you don't want to be hurt, you need to leave this laundromat.'"

Humphrey told officers he was not harassing anyone, he was "just warning them on bringing their children into the business late at night." 

Police told Humphrey to go home, but the customer said he returned.

"I went home, but came back at 5 a.m. to wash my laundry and (it) surprised me he was still there, staring at me through the window," the woman told News4Jax.com.

The date stamp on surveillance video showed Humphrey sleeping on a table at the laundromat overnight, leaving about 7:20 a.m., less than two hours before police say he arrived at the credit union with a gun.

After seeing his son face a judge on the charges Friday morning, Humphrey's father, Andre Comb, said he is thankful nobody was hurt in the incident and fully expects his son to be punished, but he does want him to have a mental evaluation.

Humphrey’s father thinks Wednesday night's behavior might have been another missed sign.

"I think the last couple of days, to me, he's been not the same," Comb said.

UNCUT: Comb talks about his son

Thursday night, Comb told News4Jax he suspected his son had mental issues. Despite the concern, he didn’t think his son could be violent and didn't know he had a gun.

Humphrey's only previous arrest in Jacksonville was in September on a traffic offense, although he was also arrested in the Tampa area in February 2016 for domestic violence.

The rescue, arrest

Sheriff Mike Williams said the distraction during the standoff when two people who Humphrey didn't know were inside began running to the door gave the SWAT team the opportunity to rush the gunman inside the credit union on Edgewood Avenue West.

"We were able to take him into custody and save the lives of those hostages," Williams said. "We were not only able to resolve it, but resolve it peacefully."

WATCH: Sheriff briefing | IMAGES: Hostage situation resolved

A man who was hiding inside the credit union for two hours described how he survived.

"Yes, it was scary," hostage Frank Brown said. "He said, 'I want the cellphones of everybody in here. I'm going to shoot them.'"

Brown said he stayed on the floor in a cubicle rather than being taken into a back room from with the other hostages.

"I know one thing ... I was not going to be led in that room and shot like a sitting duck."

UNCUT: Frank Brown describes making run for door

Williams said the decision to enter the building was made by SWAT command as the situation escalated inside the building with the hostage taker threatening the hostages at gunpoint. 

“Those guys work and train hard every single day for days like today,” Williams said. “And it paid off today. We were able to not only resolve it but resolve it peacefully through some really professional expertise to be able to make the right decision at the right time.”

Hostage situation unfolds

The situation began at 9:03 a.m. Thursday when officers responding to a reported bank robbery at the credit union and called for backup and the SWAT team.

Williams said SWAT members arrived and made contact with the hostage taker, who made some demands, including that he wanted some family members to be brought to the scene.

The motive in the hostage taking was not totally clear. 

"He said he didn't want no money, so I'm thinking he's a terrorist," Brown said. "He wanted to speak to his family. He wanted his wife, his mother-in-law and his father. He wanted them to come to the bank and talk to them."

Late Thursday afternoon, Williams said it may take weeks to know for sure all the facts of the incident.

"He very well could have been trying to rob the bank; he may have been making a statement to his family," Williams said. "He may be dealing with a mental illness."

Williams said the hostage-taker let a few hostages go during negotiations with SWAT members, but continued to be uncooperative with negotiators and to threaten the people inside the bank, leading SWAT command to decide to storm the bank at their next opportunity.

Williams said the hostage taker will face charges ranging from bank robbery, to armed kidnapping and aggravated assault, depending on the outcome of the investigation. The dog was turned over to animal control.

During the incident, loved ones of those inside the bank gathered outside the perimeter anxious for any information about the people inside.

A woman who said her sister was working inside the bank said she watched, relieved, as her sister was escorted across the street by police after the standoff ended. The woman said she hadn't been able to speak to her sister yet, but that she looked OK.

“It's sad," the woman said. "You have to grab your family and let them know you love them, because you never know.”

Another woman whose sister also worked in the bank said she had been scared all morning as the situation unfolded.

“This morning I was really scared and nervous just thinking that something could have happened to her at her place of employment," she said. "Once I saw her it was a relief to know that God brought her out of this situation. Not just her but everybody who was in that bank.”

Latasha Shuman said her 18-year-old son was working in the bank, and just after 9 a.m., she began receiving calls from friends and relatives about someone being held hostage in the bank.

Just before 11 a.m., she said her son texted her to say "Mama, I'm safe."

"I'm just so relieved," Shuman said.

Shuman said her son has worked at the bank for two to three months and has never had any issues or problems at work.

The freed hostages were reunited with their loved ones and interviewed by police at a nearby library.

“It’s a blessing, just a blessing to know she’s OK," said Clara Crews, whose daughter was among those held.

“Thank God she’s OK, and everybody else is," said Tykiea Key, family of one of the tellers. "It’s a blessing.”

Brown said he'll be more prepared if anything like this happens to him again.

"I think I'm going to go get me a license to carry a concealed weapon, because if I had a weapon, there wouldn't of been none of that right there," Brown said.

Edgewood Avenue West near Lem Turner Road and other area roads remained blocked all morning. The immediate area, including nearby businesses, was evacuated during the standoff, and officers asked everyone to stay away from the bank and to not take any photos or videos of SWAT positions, as it could pose a danger.

"We're just so very thankful this hostage situation resolved itself in a safe way for everybody," said John Hirabayashi, president and CEO of Community First Credit Union.

READ: Statement from Community First Credit Union CEO

The credit union branch on Edgewood Avenue will remain closed until Monday as the physical damage to the building is repaired. Members can use the nearest branch at 11907 Lem Turner Road until then. 

Humprey's next court date is on December 22, 2016.

 


About the Authors: