Police: Fugitive trades hostages for cigarettes during SWAT negotiation

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- After a standoff with Eau Claire Police and several other agencies that lasted nearly seven hours, officers captured 31-year-old James Albrecht on the city's south side.

Five people who were taken hostage by Albrecht were safe.

Police say Albrecht has a criminal history of armed robbery, burglary, carrying a concealed weapon, among other things.

It all started Wednesday afternoon when when police received a call that Albrecht had driven off from a Dunn County gas station.
When police spotted his car in Eau Claire he drove off, nearly ramming a squad car, and eventually got out and ran away.

He then went into a nearby apartment.

"It took a while for us to determine what apartment he was in but then the perimeter was scaled back to that one apartment building," Lt. Jim Southworth with the Eau Claire Police Department said..

Albrecht took two women and three kids, ages four, two, and four months, hostage.

"At this point we still have to do some interviews with people but at this point there is no indication they knew anything about James (Albrecht)," he said.

Next door neighbor Loni Lerum said she decided to go to school early Wednesday, a move that kept her out of harm's way.

"(Albrecht) probably tried to get into my apartment," she said. "I would have been home when it happened. So I guess I'm thankful I wasn't. I'm scared for them. I feel bad."

Police began negotiations around 5:00 p.m. and one-by-one was able to help the people get out safely with no injuries. Officer Kyle Roder said Albrecht released hostages in exchange for cigarettes.

"We essentially exchanged cigarettes for victims in this case and that's obviously something we are willing to do," he said. "As long as that person is working with us and releasing hostages, that's something that we found that cooperation level was something that gave us hope and allowed us to continue those negotiations. As long as he was dealing with us appropriately ... we're going to keep that (compliance) going."

By 8:00 p.m., police said that Albrecht had been arrested.

"Anytime children are involved in anything it adds a new element to things and makes it a little more difficult but getting to the end of it with everything peaceful is what we hope for and that's what happened tonight," Lt. Southworth said.


Release from Eau Claire Police:

At approximately 8 p.m., Eau Claire Police apprehended James J. Albrecht, a 31 year old at an apartment located on Hidden Place, in Eau Claire, Wi. Charges are still pending the follow up investigation taking place at this time.

During the incident, Albrecht committed an armed home invasion and took five people hostage, including three children.

Through negotiations, the hostages were released and Albrecht was taken into custody without incident or any injuries to the victims or the police officers involved.

Albrecht has a criminal history that includes, but is not limited to, armed robberies, carrying a concealed weapon, resisting arrest, burglary, and methamphetamine possession.

The Eau Claire Police Department was able to successfully resolve this incident with the assistance of the Eau Claire County Sheriff’s Department, the Eau Claire Fire Department, UW-Eau Claire Police Department and the City of Eau Claire Public Transit.

With the apprehension of Albrecht, the neighborhood area surrounding Hidden Place is safe and residents may resume normal activity.

The Eau Claire Police Department would like to thank the residents and public for their cooperation by staying outside the secured area while this dangerous situation was resolved.
A hostage situation between a man and police in Eau Claire, is now over.

It all started this afternoon in Dunn County when deputies say James Albrecht, 31, drove off without paying for gas.

When officers found the vehicle in Eau Claire, he drove off again, nearly hitting a squad car.

When they finally stopped him, he took of running and barricaded himself inside an apartment building, and held two adults and three kids hostage.

That area was roped off and officers took up positions with rifles.

About five hours later, police say Albrecht finally gave up.

The hostages were released safely.

We will have the very latest on WEAU 13 News at 10.
After a situation lasting nearly six hours, Eau Claire Police confirm a suspect is in custody.

Earlier Wednesday afternoon a man stole gas and then ran away from police officers. Officers learned the man had a warrant from the Department of Corrections, and began a search for him. He was located armed and in an apartment building.

Officers barricaded the area near the intersection of West Hamilton Avenue and Hidden Place on Eau Claire's south side, where they surrounded the apartment complex.The department says it is now safe for people living in the area to return home.

We will have much more information on WEAU 13 News at 10.

Eau Claire police remain near the intersection of West Hamilton Avenue and Hidden Place on Eau Claire's south side, where they've surrounded an apartment complex.

Police are in contact with a man they've spent the afternoon searching for. He is armed, and so far he is not cooperating with them. Officers want people to stay away from the area until it's over.

We'll have a live report coming up at six.
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Officers are trying to arrest a man who's suspected of stealing gas and running from police.

Lieutenant Jim Southworth says the Eau Claire Police Department received a message from Dunn County on Wednesday, saying investigators there were trying to find a vehicle that had driven off without paying for gas. Police found that the owner of the vehicle, who hasn't been identified, has a warrant from the state Department of Corrections. Around 1 p.m. Wednesday, officers later found the vehicle in Eau Claire. The vehicle drove off, almost ramming a squad car, and then stopped. That's when a man got out, and starting running away.

As of about 2:45 p.m., officers were trying to arrest the man. They set up a perimeter near Hidden Place and West Hamilton Avenue on the south side of town. Southworth says he believes officers have contained the suspect within that perimeter. He couldn't say whether the man was inside one of the apartments, or whether anyone is with him. The suspect was by himself in the vehicle.

There are no reported injuries at the scene. Southworth said a SWAT team was on standby at last report. He believed the department would release more information later on Wednesday or on Thursday.
Previous Story:

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) --Officers are reporting a "police incident" near several apartment complexes in Eau Claire, and are asking people to avoid the area.

A tweet sent out at around 1:35 p.m. Wednesday reads "Media: police incident near hidden place & Hamilton Avenue avoid the area." It does not elaborate on what the incident is. A picture sent in from a viewer shows several squad cars near one of the apartment complexes. At about 2:15 p.m., our crew at the scene said officers had blocked off Hidden Place to traffic, and that there were officers standing outside one of the apartment complexes. About 10 minutes later, our crew told us that officers were shutting down a stretch of West Hamilton Avenue southwest of the scene. An officer at the scene told our crew that this is a "volatile situation."

We'll have more information when it becomes available.