Belmont standoff ends without injury, SWAT team takes gunman into custody

htrenda@charlotteobserver.comOctober 25, 2013 

— A standoff between law enforcement and a gunman at a Belmont CVS ended without injury Friday morning.

Edward Scott Russ, 46, of Gastonia, was taken into custody without incident shortly after 7 a.m., according to Police Chief Charlie Franklin.

Russ was being held in the Gaston County Jail under a $5 million bond on three counts of first-degree kidnapping, two counts of assault on an officer with a firearm, two counts of attempted murder, and one count each of robbery with a dangerous weapon, and communicating threats.

His first court appearance is Monday. A man who answered the phone at the Russ residence said the family had no comment.

Gastonia Police Department’s regional SWAT team was among the agencies that responded, and during the standoff, police were able to tie into the store’s surveillance system to watch the suspect, officials said.

The suspect reportedly took a number of pills from the pharmacy area during the next few hours.

The standoff began shortly before 2 a.m., when two officers responded to the CVS at 6750 Wilkinson Blvd. following several 911 calls about an attempted armed robbery, Franklin said.

The officers entered the store through the front door and were confronted by a suspect carrying an SKS rifle, Franklin said. The suspect did not put down the gun as officers instructed, and instead starting shooting from approximately 15-20 feet away, Franklin said.

Officers returned fire before they were aware of the hostages in the store, at which point they left the store and called for back up, according to police.

According to a magistrate’s order, Russ told one of the hostages to tell police if they didn’t leave the hostage would be killed.

The two officers who exchanged gunfire with the suspect handled the situation “exactly as they had been trained,” Franklin said.

A police negotiator made contact with the gunman a short time later, police said.

Over the next two hours, the three store employees that were being held hostage – one woman and two men – were released without injury.

The suspect reportedly told hostages they wouldn’t be harmed if they listened to what he said, according to Franklin. The suspect first released one of the men and the woman, who had children, according to police.

Russ released the last male hostage shortly after 4 a.m., Franklin said.

The negotiator remained in contact and when the suspect surrendered, he laid the rifle on a counter, walked out the front door with his hands up and was taken into custody by a SWAT team, Franklin said.

The suspect “appeared apologetic” and “stated he was sorry,” the chief said.

Belmont City Council member Charlie Martin said it was fortunate the two city police officers who were involved were trained how to respond. “You have to be ready anytime a situation like that occurs,” Martin said. “I’m glad nobody got hurt and the situation was resolved.”

Trenda: 704-358-5089; Twitter: @htrenda

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