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Credit union reopens days after hostage standoff

Nicholas Humphrey, 23, accused of holding 13 people hostage during robbery

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Days after a two-hour hostage standoff that ended peacefully, the Community First Credit Union on Edgewood Avenue reopened Monday with added police presence.

Nicholas Humphrey, the man accused taking hostages last Thursday in the credit union, is facing 13 counts of kidnapping, along with charges of armed bank robbery and auto theft. His next court date is Dec. 22.

Community First President and CEO John Hirabayashi said Monday that the credit union is doing everything it can to take care of its employees, including having officers from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office to help the employees feel safe.

“We have a full crew of staff here today, and we're just very happy that everybody was safe from last week and that we’re able to open and serve our members and have our employees here to serve our members as well,” Hirabayashi said. “I really can’t speak highly enough for the first responders, especially the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and our Sheriff (Mike) Williams for just the outstanding show of force and the ability to bring all that to bear on our hostage situation here.”

According to police, Humphrey, 23, came into the credit union in Northwest Jacksonville shortly after it opened.

Humphrey had a dog, dog food and a gun with him as he held 13 people hostage inside, police said. Witnesses said he fired a shot into the air while he was at a desk with an employee.

Police said Humphrey also put the gun to the heads of the hostages and threatened to kill them during the standoff. They were able to watch what was happening inside the credit union because of a high-tech security system that was installed after someone fired a gun inside that same branch 15 years ago.

After about two hours, the SWAT team swarmed the building, freed the hostages and took Humphrey into custody. No one was injured.

“Being on the scene, it's just amazing how well-coordinated the response was, how well they worked with the credit union, and ultimately, and most importantly, how they were able to bring this to a safe outcome for everyone involved,” Hirabayashi said.

Humphrey’s mother said he suffers from mental illness and she’s tried, unsuccessfully, to get him help.

Several customers who visited the credit union after it reopened Monday said they could easily have been among the 13 held captive.

Sam Park, a five-year customer of the credit union, said he forgot his wallet that morning and had to turn around to get it.

“If I were here, with my wallet, as I planned, to take care of some business at the bank, I guess I would have been another hostage,” Park said. “I could have been another one that was in this danger.”

Romel Brooks shared a similar story.

“That particular morning, God would have it, I couldn’t get here. I was doing all different things. Then it got to be like 10. Being the first of the month, I said, ‘Well, it’s probably packed by now.’ So I started to wait until after 11, and my daughter finally got me. She was blowing up the phone,” Brooks said. “She said, ‘Daddy, Daddy! Are you at the bank? I said, 'No.' She said, ‘Turn on the TV. Do you see what’s happening?’ And when I turned on the TV, I immediately went into prayer for all these people.’”

Brooks said he knows many of the staff members at the bank very well, because he's been a customer there for 15 years.

“I know all the managers that’s been through here. I know mostly all of the tellers by name, personally, because when I come in, I always try to spread joy and have a little fun. Sometimes I’ll sing a little song,” Brooks said.

He said he had planned to do that the morning of the standoff.

“We’re leading into the Christmas season, and I was going to share a Christmas song with these guys,” Brooks said.

He said when things calm down, he’ll be back to sing to the employees.

Hirabayashi said Community First will review its safety procedures for the future but he applauded his staff for how they handled the situation.

“Our employees did an amazing job following our procedures, remaining calm during the incident, and ultimately being able to deescalate the situation,” Hirabayashi said.

Humphrey is being held without bond in the Duval County Jail.