CALABASAS — A man described as a disgruntled employee stormed into a Babies R Us store and took a manager hostage, prompting a two-hour standoff with sheriff's deputies that ended when the man freed the woman and surrendered. No one was harmed.
Authorities initially thought the man, identified as Christian Frear, a 30-year-old employee at the store, was armed. But Frear had no weapon when he surrendered about 7:10 p.m. at the sprawling store in the Calabasas Center shopping mall, said sheriff's Deputy Sabrina Bennett.
The drama began when Frear allegedly ordered the other employees out of the store and took the manager captive, locking himself in a back room with her, said Deputy Norman Campbell of the sheriff's Malibu-Lost Hills station.
The standoff, complete with helicopters and a sheriff's SWAT team, rattled the suburban calm of this normally tranquil city.
"Seeing this in Calabasas is unbelievable to me," said Barbara Salata, a real estate agent who works nearby. "That's why I came to Calabasas--because of the low crime rate."
At a martial arts center near the store, children filing into their taekwondo class were quickly sent home with parents, or were hustled into a back room as gun-toting deputies swarmed into the parking lot.
"We tried to get the kids out of here as quick as we could," said Tim Connolly, the center's owner.
But the hostage drama didn't stop some determined women who had showed up early for their aerobics class, he said. The class went on as planned, music pumping in the background, even as helicopters thundered overhead.
"These women are pretty hard-core," Connolly said. "They want their cardio."