Gunman Releases Hostages at Old Faithful, Surrenders
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) _ A gunman who took eight hostages Friday at the Old Faithful visitor center in Yellowstone National Park released them unharmed and was taken into custody a few hours later.
Brett Hartley, 18, of Baton Rouge surrendered shortly after 8 p.m., said park ranger Bundy Phillips. No one was injured and no shots were fired.
Phillips said he negotiated by telephone for nearly five hours with Hartley, a former Louisiana State University student. He said Hartley held a pistol trained on the hostages throughout much of the period.
″He is a frustrated guy who has had a hard life,″ said park ranger Joe Evans, noting that Hartley once suffered from cancer. ″He was relatively calm the whole time.″
The hostage-taking ″was an expression of asking for help. Some people have a hard time asking for help,″ Evans said. He said snipers had weapons trained on the gunman until the hostages were released.
The hostages - five visitors to the scenic geyser complex and three park employees, two of them women - were freed about 6 p.m., almost three hours after the incident began, said Interior Department spokesman Steve Goldstein in Washington.
Shortly after 8 p.m., the man put the handgun down and walked outside the center, where he was met by three park rangers in a car, Evans said. After a short conversation, he was handcuffed and placed in the car, Evans said.
Officials said the man would be taken to a hospital at Jackson, Wyo., for a preliminary psychiatric examination.
″I don’t believe he wanted to hurt anybody,″ said Rebecca Painter, 26, a tourist from Salt Lake City who was held hostage for about five minutes with her two daughters, ages 4 and 1 1/2 .
She said she and her daughters were released because the children were fussing. Her husband, Gary, 34, was among the last hostages released.
Painter said her family arrived in Yellowstone Friday morning on vacation. They were at the visitor’s center about 3 p.m. when she noticed a nervous- looking young man.
Suddenly, she said, he pulled a long-barreled handgun that had apparently been hidden under a jacket thrown over his shoulder, pointed it at a ranger and ordered everyone to lie down on the floor.
The gunman also wanted visitors watching a movie in another room to come out, but they had been warned and escaped through a back door, she said.
President Bush and Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan are scheduled to visit Yellowstone on Monday to inspect damage from last summer’s forest fires. The center is not in an area the president planned to visit, Goldstein said.