By Ed Brock
Clayton County Police closed down Tara Boulevard and surrounded a massage parlor near the Arrowhead shopping center Friday on the suspicion an armed man was holding at least two employees hostage.
But after nearly two hours of shouting in the rain for everybody to come outside, and keeping guns trained on Laurel Spa's front and back door, police learned the suspect had already left.
"Apparently the man fled before the officers were able to get there and surround the building," said Clayton County Police Capt. Jeff Turner.
Around 9:10 a.m., the gunman entered the spa, which is in a building holding at least two other offices, and began robbing two female employees who were inside.
A third employee who was outside smoking a cigarette went back into the spa and seeing that the place was being robbed, went back outside, taking the cordless phone for the business with her.
The third employee called 911. County police, firefighters and sheriff's deputies surrounded the building, diverting traffic and establishing a perimeter that affected hundreds of commuters, service employees, and shoppers for at least two hours.
Jimi Miller, 35, of Locust Grove waited outside Graffiti's Pizza, desperately trying to contact his wife, who worked next door to the spa at Landmark Body Shop.
"I haven't been able to talk to her and can't get her on the phone," he said.
During the incident, the police SWAT team lined up around a corner of the building, ready to move in, and an officer with a bullhorn demanded that everybody inside the building come out.
Finally, the employee who had escaped to call the police got on the bullhorn and began speaking in the native tongue of the two Asian employees inside. A few minutes later those two women came out of the building and were hurried into an office next door.
Shortly after that the SWAT team entered the spa and discovered that it was empty.
Turner said the gunman was described as a black male standing about six feet tall with thin, short-cropped hair. They have no description of any vehicle the man may have been driving.
News Daily staff writer Justin Boron contributed to this story.