Charges expected Friday after standoff at St. Cloud bank

A woman leaves a building with her hands up.
A hostage leaves a Wells Fargo bank in St. Cloud, Minn., on Thursday.
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News

Updated: May 7, 10:35 a.m. | Posted May 6, 5 p.m.

Five hostages were freed after a standoff Thursday that lasted more than eight hours at a Wells Fargo branch in St. Cloud, Minn. The Stearns County Attorney says a 35-year-old man in custody will be charged Friday with aggravated robbery, kidnapping and second-degree assault, and may also face federal charges.

Two hostages were released at around 6:25 p.m. and just after 7 p.m. Thursday. The first woman ran from the bank toward members of a SWAT team with her hands up. After being searched, she was escorted to safety. A second woman later emerged and was led to safety.

Another two were released around 8 p.m.; the fifth was freed around 10:30 p.m. There were no reports of injuries.

Witnesses say after the first hostage walked out a wad of money was thrown out the door of the bank.

St. Cloud police Lt. Lori Ellering said officers responded to a reported robbery at the Wells Fargo branch a little before 2 p.m.

St. Cloud police Chief Blair Anderson said the man was disgruntled about a previous transaction at the Wells Fargo branch.

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“The branch manager called because he was concerned for his own safety and the safety of the customers and the employees who were in the bank at the time. A short time later, we received a panic alarm indicating that a bank robbery was in process,” Anderson said.

By the time officers arrived, Anderson said, several customers had fled, but five employees remained inside and were held hostage. The chief said the suspect asked St. Cloud police to call the FBI, which they did.

Police stand outside the door to a bank.
Police in tactical gear stand near a door to a bank where hostages were held inside in St. Cloud Thursday.
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News

“Throughout the incident we had contact with the suspect in every way possible, including writing notes and putting them up against the drive-thru window.”

Anderson said the suspect is known to police. He was supposed to be in court Thursday to face charges for an earlier offense that the police chief said was violent.

Officials said the suspect did not have a firearm on hand or at the scene.

Anderson said the suspect released some of the hostages, while others ran out on their own.

Stearns County Attorney’s Office says the man could potentially face additional federal charges.

“We have been in conversations with the United States Attorney’s Office,” said county attorney Janelle Kendall. “Considering that there are five hostages and considering the criminal history, where would the appropriate place for charges to be brought.”

Chief Anderson said all five hostages returned home physically unharmed, but he added that the psychological stress they faced was obvious, and officials are connecting them with mental health services.

Police in tactical gear stand outside of a bank.
Police wearing tactical gear stand outside of a Wells Fargo bank in St. Cloud.
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News