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September 21, 2012

Police: Hostage-taker surrenders in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A suicidal man who held a businessman hostage inside a downtown Pittsburgh office building for more than five hours Friday, posting Facebook updates during the standoff, surrendered to authorities without incident, police said.

Klein Michael Thaxton, 22, surrendered just before 2 p.m., and the man he took hostage was unhurt, Police Chief Nathan Harper said.

The hostage-taking on the 16th floor of Three Gateway Center prompted an evacuation while Thaxton wrote on Facebook that had "lost everything" and that people didn't have to worry about him anymore.

His friends responded by urging him to end the situation peacefully, including one who asked him to think of his mother.

A police spokeswoman identified the hostage as Charles Breitsman, owner of CW Breitsman Associates. The firm runs employee-benefits programs, but it wasn't immediately clear why he was targeted.

"(Thaxton) is a sick young man and we do need to take measures to see he is taken care of as well," police spokeswoman Diane Richard said.

Police asked Facebook to take down Thaxton's page early in the afternoon in hopes of steering all of his attention to negotiations.

The Facebook exchanges had the potential to both help and harm the negotiations, Harper said. It's helpful that Thaxton can see "that people are concerned about his well-being," Harper said, but "it is a distraction for negotiating."

A worker on the 16th floor described a woman running into her office yelling for someone to call 911. Kathi Dvorak, an administrative assistant at AXA Advisors, said a second woman ran in and said her office was being robbed.

Harper had described the hostage-taker as having a military background but didn't elaborate.

Thaxton has a criminal record that includes a guilty plea to robbery earlier this year and a minimum six-month jail sentence.

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