PITTSBURGH — A man convicted of holding hostages when he pretended to have a bomb at a bank in 2008 was refusing to come out of a western Pennsylvania residence where police said a woman was believed to also be inside. A nearby elementary school was closed and evacuated as a precaution.
The suspect, Charles Cottle, 45, of West Homestead, is wanted for violating his probation in the case involving the fake bomb, according to the Allegheny County sheriff's office.
Friday's standoff was in Hempfield Township, in neighboring Westmoreland County, about 25 miles east of Pittsburgh.
That's where a marshals-led fugitive task force out of Pittsburgh went to arrest Cottle about 7 a.m.
"A woman is also believed to be inside, however we do not know her level of involvement," said Trooper Steve Limani, a spokesman for the nearby state police barracks in Greensburg.
The female tenant of the residence where Cottle is holed up came out shortly after the fugitive task force arrived and told police that Cottle was inside with the other woman, Limani said. Cottle told task force members from a window that he wasn't coming out and has since refused in continuing conversations with police, Limani said.
The tenant has told police she doesn't believe there are weapons in the residence but couldn't say that for certain, Limani said.
The Hempfield Area School District website said nearby West Hempfield Elementary School has been closed. Students were being bused to another school, where parents could pick them up. The middle school, which is some distance from the scene, was operating normally.
Cottle is awaiting trial on charges of terroristic threats and disorderly conduct stemming from an incident June 16 in West Homestead.
That's where police said Cottle held them at bay for five hours after he refused to leave an apartment, prompting a SWAT team response.
That arrest violated his probation on the 2008 case involving the fake bomb at a bank in McKeesport, and other records from that case indicate he was due for a mental health review hearing on Jan. 26 that had been postponed several times.
In the 2008 case, McKeesport police Chief Joseph Pero said Cottle was distraught and wanted to die when he duct-taped two empty spray paint cans and wires together and pretended it was a bomb. Cottle never threatened to rob the bank and didn't harm the hostages before surrendering after a couple hours, police said.
Cottle pleaded guilty to having a fake bomb, making a bomb threat, terroristic threats and unlawful restraint. He was eventually sentenced in 2009 to nine to 18 months in the Allegheny County, followed by five years' probation in that case.