Alabama CU Evaluating Security After Employees Held Hostage
An active hostage situation ended peacefully at Alabama Credit Union in Tuscaloosa, Ala. on Tuesday. The credit union's CEO, Steve Swofford spoke with CU Times following the incident saying, "We train our employees pretty well for these kinds of situations and they handled the situation great."
According to the Tuscaloosa Police Department, around 8:30 a.m. CDT an armed male suspect entered the main office branch, located at 220 Paul Bryant Dr. on the southeastern edge of the University of Alabama campus and took eight hostages captive, all of which were employees of the credit union.
While waiting outside with police, Swofford said there were a lot of things going through his mind - first and foremost, the safety of the employees. "You fear the worst in a situation like that. You just hope that nobody gets hurt."
According to Lt. Teena Richardson, Public Information Officer with the TPD, after two hours, the unnammed suspect was apprehended by police who entered the building and the tense standoff ended without incident. While the identity of the suspect has not been released, Swofford said, "We don't know of any personal connection the suspect has with the credit union. He's not a member and he's not a former employee or related to anyone working at the credit union."
During the interview, Swofford said that he has two priorities at the moment. "Right now we are going to take care of our employees and provide them with any resources they need - whatever they need," said Swofford. He said resources such as mental health counselling or taking time off, if needed, are available to the credit union employees who were held against their will.
The other priority, conducting a full security assessment of the credit union. "We're going to make sure to assess our security systems and our procedures," he said. "The police has given us a couple of items to consider adjusting as we go forward. We know we cannot completely prevent things like this from happening, but the more we train and learn, the better we're able to keep our employees and members safe."
This situation comes just more than a month after an armed suspect took 13 hostages captive at a Jacksonville, Fla. branch of Community First Credit Union on December 1. In that case, the armed assailant allegedly entered the credit union with his dog shortly after the branch opened for business. After two hours, police tactical units stormed into the branch and rescued the hostages, taking the suspect into custody without incident. According to police, the suspect's motive was robbery.
According to police in Alabama, the motive for this hostage situation is in question. Richardson said the motive remained unclear. "This didn't come in as a robbery and we are not sure what the movtive was." The FBI, University of Alabama Police, Tuscaloosa Police Department and the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Department all assisted with the crime scene. "This was a joint effort with all law enforcement agencies in the area," said Richardson.
"I'm so proud of how our staff ralies around each other. They care as much about each other as they do their own families," said Swofford.
Alabama Credit Union has $729 million in assets and roughly 72,000 members.