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Gateway Center Hostage Suspect Arraigned Overnight

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- For people coming to work downtown, it began like any other weekday morning. It was Friday and Pittsburghers were anticipating the weekend.

But things changed abruptly when numerous law enforcement officials surrounded building three of the Gateway Center plaza in the heart of downtown.

For more than five hours, police say 22-year-old Klein Michael Thaxton held a man hostage on the 16th floor of Gateway Three.

Thaxton was arraigned overnight and remains in jail today. He faces charges of terroristic threats, kidnapping and aggravated assault.

His bond was set at $1 million and a preliminary hearing has been set for Wednesday.

The incident forced thousands of people into the streets Friday morning. Traffic was detoured as tense negotiations progressed. Police negotiators are being credited with defusing the volatile situation.

"No one was injured in this," said Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper. "The victim, as you can understand, is quite shaken."

The hostage, 48-year-old Charles Breitsman, was debriefed by investigators after being released and quietly then slipped out of police headquarters.

According to investigators, Thaxton is accused of threatening Breitsman's life more than 50 times during the five hour and half hour standoff.

At one point, the two men struggled over Thaxton's knife. According to a police report, Thaxton allegedly told his hostage he wanted to die at the hands of police and was committed to be shot.

Chief Harper says the incident actually began around 3 a.m. when Thaxton left a Beechview halfway house in a bad mood and carrying a hammer, kitchen knife and cell phone.

Riding his bike, investigators say Thaxton ended up downtown and twice thought about assaulting a police officer and taking his gun but that never happened.

He scoped out Gateway Three and saw how lax security appeared to be.

At 8:13 a.m., the first call came in to 911 about a hostage incident in a suite on the 16th floor.

Then at 1:43 in the afternoon, the standoff ended after negotiators allowed Thaxton to talk briefly with his mother and an ex-girlfriend who he broke up with in 2008.

Police say it was a random hostage taking incident, but why did Thaxton focus his anger on someone he never met and didn't know?

"He had carjacked a female in McKeesport and he felt he didn't want to victimize another female," Chief Harper said.

Pittsburgh Police Detail Hostage Suspect's Actions (9/21/12)
More News on the Gateway Center Hostage Situation


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