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Hostages Held for Hours - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Hostages Held for Hours

St. Albans, Vermont - July 24, 2007

A five hour "hostage situation" Tuesday morning in St. Albans ended peacefully and the man charged with holding police at bay is now in custody.

Police say they responded to a domestic assault call at about 12:30 Tuesday morning, which escalated into a hostage situation.

According to the police, 22-year-old Nicholas Smith was drunk when he took an unnamed man, woman and an eight month-old infant hostage during a domestic dispute at an apartment on Rublee Street. When police arrived, Smith reportedly threatened to harm the hostages with a gun if the officers tried to intervene.

Authorities closed down the street and evacuated about 25 families to a Red Cross shelter at City Hall. They also called in the power company to cut power to the block.

"I woke up and I didn't think it was real at first, but when you see them standing at the door in the dark, you realize that something's really going on," said Amy Talbot who was evacuated.

The State Police SWAT team and hostage negotiator were called onto the scene.  According to reports, Smith released the male hostage about halfway through the standoff.  At around 5:45 the State Police released a flash-bang grenade into the three story apartment house.

"We were looking out the window, and we saw them shoot the grenade off, and it bounced off and blew up in front of them, and we heard a big bang, so we booked it. We thought there was going to be shooting and stuff," said Peter Berretta who witnessed the standoff. 

About 15 minutes after the explosion, Smith released the woman and the infant, and began to negotiate his surrender with police.

"He started cooperating, he was sitting there saying 'So how should I come down, with my hands behind my head or should I, like, come down slowly or something, and he's like, and if I come down will you manhandle me?'", said Berretta.

"It was a very dramatic situation. When you have a child inside like that, I think you have to be concerned about the outcome. Certainly everybody's blood pressure went down when we were able to get the child out of there," said St. Albans Police Chief Gary Taylor.

But two of the so called hostages -- Jennifer Smith and Allen Gibson -- later called Channel 3 news to say they were never actually held by Smith.  Both said they felt free to leave whenever they wanted.  

Both Gibson and Ms. Smith said they never were threatened.. they insisted it was not a hostage situation.   Nevertheless, Nicholas Smith is charged with kidnapping and domestic assault.  He has pleaded not guilty, but is still being held for lack of bail. 

Rachael Morrow -- Channel 3 News

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