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ALHAMBRA, Calif. (AP) _ A man demanding $50,000 and claiming to have a gun took nine employees hostage at a suburban Los Angeles bank Tuesday, police said. All escaped before the suspect surrendered.

The man had been negotiating his surrender when his last few hostages slipped out the front door or a bathroom window, Sgt. David Nater said.

``He was on the phone, kind of looked around, and realized he had no hostages,'' Nater said.

The man was identified as Danny Chao, 27, of Los Angeles. He was booked into the city jail for investigation of robbery and kidnapping and held in lieu of $500,000 bail, said Lt. Gene Shepard.

Chao allegedly walked into the Cathay Bank branch not long after it opened, told employees he was armed and demanded the money, Nater said. No customers were inside.

A pellet gun that looked like a 9mm handgun was discovered in his bag, Shepard said, adding that the man never brandished the weapon.

Bank employees gave him an undisclosed amount of money and triggered a silent alarm. Several tellers also e-mailed colleagues at other branches, telling them a robbery was in progress, said Irwin Wong, the bank's executive vice president.

Police surrounded the bank within minutes. Nater said hostages were used as intermediaries to communicate with police by telephone and e-mail throughout the day.

Cathay Bank, founded in 1962, was the first Chinese-American-owned bank established in Southern California. It has 19 branches in the state.

Wong said the Alhambra branch did not employee a security guard.

``It frustrates me, but I don't know what we can do. We've had banks with guards, they still get robbed,'' Wong said.