EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

World/National News

September 22, 2012

After Facebook posts, Pittsburgh hostage-taker surrenders

PITTSBURGH — Klein Michael Thaxton hadn’t been much of a Facebook devotee. He posted no status updates in two years on the social network. Yesterday, though, he surfaced with a jarring post: “i cant take it no more im done bro.”

The 22-year-old Army veteran was on the 16th floor of a downtown Pittsburgh office building at the time, armed with a hammer and kitchen knife and holding a businessman hostage, police said.

He surrendered after more than five hours. Neither he nor the hostage, business owner Charles Breitsman, 58, was injured. But Thaxton’s real-time Facebook updates — coupled with online pleas by his friends to surrender — vividly illustrated the evolving challenges that confront police when social media plays an active role in a crime-in-progress.

In all, Thaxton sent seven messages, many of them despairing and written in disjointed style.

“this life im livin rite now i dnt want anymore,” said one post. “ive lost everything and I aint gettin it back.”

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

“dude, you gotta purpose here in life, and this ain’t it yo, people do care man, they do,” another wrote.

Thaxton’s mother, Ronda Thaxton, was at the scene working with negotiators. She said she last saw her son several weeks ago and had a feeling he was troubled.

Initially, police wanted his Facebook page kept open, hoping to gain useful information, but they later asked Facebook to take it down so that he could focus on communicating with authorities.

The Facebook exchanges had the potential to help and to harm those efforts, police Chief Nathan Harper said. It was helpful that Thaxton could see “that people are concerned about his well-being,” the chief said, but “it is a distraction for negotiating.”

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