CHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (AP) _ A man police say was at the scene of robbery at a Shoney’s Restaurant in Charlotte, N.C., claims he has a hostage at gunpoint at a highway reststop, but authorities aren’t sure that’s true.
``He says he has a hostage,″ State Law Enforcement Division spokesman Hugh Munn said Sunday morning. ``But we have not verified that.″
Early reports said there were as many as two people held by the man, who police will not identify.
A SWAT team is on the scene and negotiations are continuing, Munn said.
The state Highway Patrol has closed off an eight-mile stretch of I-77 here in both directions.
The incident began about 7 p.m. Saturday when the man was leaving the restaurant and stole a truck, Charlotte police said.
He was spotted and chased across the state line by a North Carolina patrol car. South Carolina Troopers picked up pursuit.
Charlotte police say the man pulled into a highway rest area where he crashed into a South Carolina patrol car and a U.S. Airways truck.
``It went flying onto the grass,″ witness Steve Neal told WCNC-TV in Charlotte. ``The truck went up in the air. You could see smoke coming from the truck.″
Neal said that’s when police officers pulled their guns and told the driver to put his weapon down.
Another witness, Kathy Blakenbecklor, told WIS-TV that she was at a rest stop on the closed highway when police told her to leave. She said police told her one of the hostages came from one of the wrecked vehicles.
Blakenbecklor told WIS that she listened to some negotiations on a CB radio and that the suspect told police he committed the crimes because of a fight with his girlfriend.
Blakenbecklor said the man asked police to contact his girlfriend.
Munn said while there was a robbery at the Shoney’s, police aren’t sure the man involved in the standoff was part of the holdup.