Police Hunt Armed Gunmen who Held 15 People for 4 Hours

Police were searching for two gunmen at a T.J. Maxx in a Venice, Fla., shopping mall early Wednesday morning after they took a total of 15 people hostage, NBC News reported.

Wendy Rose, a spokeswoman for the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, told NBC News that all hostages were accounted for and safe after a nearly four-hour ordeal that involved both employees and customers.

The T.J. Maxx was open when the hostage situation was first reported to authorities at 9:30 p.m. ET. Nine victims were able to quickly escape the incident, but a remaining six people depended on SWAT team members to lead them to safety, NBC reported.

Seven of the eight hostages were freed after dozens of SWAT team members, backed by two helicopters, surrounded the store in Venice. The final hostage reportedly hid from the gunmen and was injured after being shoved to the ground by the attackers. SWAT members were seen dragging her out of the store on a blanket.

At one point a police car drove to within 10 feet of the entrance of the store behind a concrete pillar and several SWAT officers wearing body armor appeared to be talking to the gunmen.

Shortly before midnight, there were reports that a single gunshot was heard inside the store.

According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the gunmen tied up employees using Ziptape while making their demands. It was unclear what those were.

As of 2 a.m. ET, police and a K-9 unit had not located the assailants and were still searching for them.

The workers who had been held in the store gave police conflicting information about the incident. Witnesses said they saw three people running out of the store, and they appeared to be tied up.

According to the Venice Police Department, about 15 employees were at the store closing up around 9:30 p.m. when the two gunmen entered.

A manager for the store said that, at most, $12,000 cash could be on hand.

Venice, a coastal community, is located 70 miles south of Tampa, FOX News reports.

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