Complaint: Suspect charged with holding hostages at bank threatened to kill victims over course of 8-hour standoff
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Ray Reco McNeary, the 35-year-old man charged with holding up a Wells Fargo in St. Cloud and taking five people hostage, told the victims during the over eight-hour standoff that he wanted a "big show" and wanted to be "a martyr."
According to a criminal complaint filed in Stearns County District Court, McNeary came into the bank Thursday afternoon upset about alleged fraud activity on his account. The bank manager took McNeary into his office and was unable to locate an account. When McNeary got upset, someone called 911, and a short time later, the manager pressed the silent panic alarm in his office to report the bank was being held up.
A total of five bank employees were being held hostage in the lobby, and McNeary demanded money and to speak with the FBI.
McNeary forced the manager toward the vault. The manager placed a large amount of cash in a bag and gave it to McNeary. The complaint states that during this time, McNeary pressed an object into the bank manager’s back and twisted his arm around, causing the manager’s watch to cut into his wrist.
He told the victims he was going to harm them and that he wanted to cause a "big show" and to "go viral." He also said he wanted to be "a martyr," the complaint stated.
At one point McNeary said he wanted to take all the victims "with him." He also told the bank manager he was going to use him as a human shield and they would "die together." McNeary recorded videos on social media using the victims’ phones in which he specifically threatened the bank manager’s life. He also said he would kill the hostages, kill himself or put law enforcement in a position that would force them to kill him.
The complaint states that McNeary eventually got behind the bank manager and held a pair of scissors to the victim’s neck, pushed him to the ground, and said, "If you move, I swear to God I’ll stab you."
Eventually one of the hostages was able to dash to the front door of the bank and push past McNeary, who tried to stop her. Another victim was allowed to leave because she was having medical problems; a third was let go after McNeary used her phone to communicate outside the bank; a fourth hostage was eventually released as well, leaving just the bank manager.
Around 10:30 p.m., after more than eight hours of an ongoing standoff between McNeary and law enforcement, a negotiator was able to tell the bank manager that SWAT teams from the FBI and St. Cloud Police Department were ready and waiting outside the front door and prepared to enter.
The manager ran for the front door as law enforcement rushed in to take McNeary into custody.
According to the complaint, McNeary has been charged with one count each of first-degree aggravated robbery and second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon and five counts of kidnapping with a dangerous weapon.
Linda Olweng stood outside the bank for hours, witnessing the standoff and praying for the hostages’ safety.
“That was honestly like a crazy experience to be there. All those people here, just waiting. ‘What happens next?’" she said. "You see SWAT come in, you see cars going out. You’re like, ‘What’s going to happen?’ And you don’t know. You’re on the edge of your seat, watching a movie in real life.”
“It’s just crazy. You never think something like that’s going to happen in your small town, but it does,” added another witness, Max Glatzmaier, who was working nearby as the hostage situation began Thursday.
During a Minnesota Senate committee meeting Friday, Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said it appeared the suspect was having a "mental health crisis."
“I think it speaks to the continued need for better services in regard to those that are under crisis,” Minnesota’s top law enforcement official told lawmakers.
Harrington also praised the police work by St. Cloud Police Department and the FBI, calling it a "textbook" example of how to handle a hostage situation.
“The longer you can hold this out, the longer you can remain in conversation, the better chance you have for both the hostages and the suspect to be able to be extricated from this situation with no loss of life,” Harrington said.