UPDATED: Hostage Standoff Hoaxer Apprehended at Beggars Pizza
A five-hour hostage standoff Thursday night was exposed as a hoax when police discovered the man thought to be in the home was really sitting at a bar talking on a cell phone.
For further details, please read a followup on Oak Forest Patch.
Updated 11:18 p.m.
Oak Forest police have arrested Mark Fitch outside of Beggars Pizza. After being transported to the police department, he was taken to a hospital, where he will receive a mental evaluation. More details as they emerge.
Updated: 10:30 p.m.
After five hours of what was purported to be a hostage situation, police blasted 5544 Babette Court with tear gas and stormed in, but the man believed to have barricaded himself inside, Mark Fitch, was not at home. He was in a bar stringing police along on his cell phone.
"This was an elaborate hoax," said Mayor Hank Kuspa.
The first call came at 4 p.m. this afternoon, when a friend reported that Mark Fitch was intoxicated and threatening bodily harm to himself.
"The cost of this little hoax, from this gentleman, was tens of thousands of dollars," Kuspa said. "It's unconscionable to me how someone could think this was funny in this economy."
After clearing the home, police went after Fitch.
About a dozen neighbors were evacuated from their homes in the early evening as police from throughout the south suburbs descended on the neighborhood. Units from Hazel Crest, Homewood, Tinley Park, Chicago Heights and nearby areas responded. Emergency vehicles lined Central Avenue on both sides.
South Suburban Emergency Response Team members set up outside the home.
Kuspa told Patch that he was alerted to a "potential hostage situation" and came to the scene. People weren't allowed into their homes for five hours as police talked to Fitch, 44, believing he was holed up inside. The neighborhood episode did not end until shortly after 10 p.m. when police moved in.
There was concern that explosives could be inside the home. Fitch is known in the neighborhood for shooting off fireworks, according to neighbors.
Oak Forest police, some armed with rifles, about 4 p.m. cordoned off an area from 159th Street to 163rd Street and from Central Avenue to Long Avenue and evacuated local residents in the vicinity of Lagoon Park.
The man's mother and brother reportedly were called to the scene, and were being held at Standard Bank nearby.
The area is across the street from the George W. Dunne Golf Course.
Resident Raymond Sauerbier, of 5537 Babette Court, lives on the same cul-de-sac as the home in question, and was unable to reach his home because of the barricade.
Residents were being let into their homes late Thursday night.
Tinley Park police assisted by answering calls in the western half of Oak Forest. Homewood also was called in. An officer earlier was sent to 163rd and Long to disperse about 40 kids playing lacrosse in a local park.