St. Cloud police officers responded to a bank robbery and hostage situation at the Wells Fargo South Branch just before 2 p.m. Thursday.
Witnesses relayed that a man went into the bank and was complaining about an account. He then pulled out a gun and demanded employees take him into the vault. Shortly after the robbery was reported, a teller posted a note on a drive-through window with a telephone number for law enforcement to call for negotiations.
Police initially said an “undisclosed” amount of bank employees were being held hostage inside. Sources at the scene confirmed all five hostages were Wells Fargo employees, not customers.
Just before 6:30 p.m., reporters on the scene saw one hostage come out of the bank and get escorted away by law enforcement. A wad of cash was then tossed outside the door, likely by the suspect.
About a half hour later, a second person came out.
Shortly after 8 p.m., a fourth hostage was released from the building. A third person was seen leaving 10 minutes prior.
A few hundred people sat outside watching the drama unfold, clapping and cheering each time a freed hostage exited.
“It’s getting cold and raining, yet the people haven’t left. They want to see this end,” a WCCO reporter explained at 10 p.m.
The suspect, Ray Reco McNeary, 35, is being held on charges of bank robbery and kidnapping. St. Cloud Chief of Police Blair Anderson said Friday that his team has had several contacts with McNeary, including terroristic threats, domestic assault, trespassing and disorderly conduct, dating back to 2007.
McNeary was reportedly upset about a previous transaction.
A Wells Fargo spokesperson released the following statement earlier Thursday:
“We can confirm a hostage situation at Wells Fargo’s St. Cloud South branch, located at 200 33rd Avenue South. We are cooperating with local law enforcement and will do whatever we can to assist the authorities in their investigation. We recognize this is a traumatic moment for the community and our colleagues. The safety and security of our customers and employees is our most important priority.”
A.J. Kaufman is an Alpha News columnist. His work has appeared in the Baltimore Sun, Florida Sun-Sentinel, Indianapolis Star, Israel National News, Orange County Register, St. Cloud Times, Star-Tribune, and across AIM Media Midwest and the Internet. Kaufman previously worked as a school teacher and military historian.