The story is still developing as the city and surrounding neighborhoods prepare for the long holiday weekend. But northwest Indiana law enforcement officials say that they have cordoned off a large area around downtown Valparaiso, Indiana, because a gunman entered a real estate office there and took several people hostage. Police are negotiating with the gunman to try and secure the release of what they believe to be about 10 people still inside the building.
Chicago news sources say that police were called at about 10 a.m. with a report that a man carrying a gun had entered the Prudential Executive Group Real Estate office. There were reports that the gunman exchanged fire with someone inside the building, but details over whom that fire was exchanged remain sketchy at best. There is no information, currently, if anyone inside the building has been injured or killed.
When the gunman entered the building a number of people, approximately 40 in all, left the building. Police spoke to the press and said that they were currently unsure of the people who left the building had been let go by the gunman or if they had simply found a different door to get out of and escaped while the gunman was occupied elsewhere.
The police also said that the gunman has fired at police and that there was an exchange of gunfire once the police showed up at the scene. Reports are that the gunman entered the building with the gun because he believed there was someone in the office that owed him money.
Police have closed off several blocks around the building and evacuated people within those buildings. Helicopter images on local television show a cordon of police officers surrounding the building with their guns drawn. According to reports from police, the gunman has been in touch with police via telephone, but no details were being released about what demands, if any, the gunman has made.
The Chicago Tribune is reporting that one agent who works within the building has spoken to reporters. He claims that he was not at work today, but had spoken to other agents who were at the office. According to the absent agent, he believes that the entire incident stems from a dispute over a real estate transaction.
The situation is developing and further reports will likely be forthcoming. No details about the gunman have been released at this point.
Photo of police officers courtesy of Morguefile.com