GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A Gulfport man is dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, after holding his estranged wife hostage for nearly two hours at the Winn Dixie where she works.
Police say Clayton Blanchard, 27, was heavily armed when he went to the Winn Dixie on Pass Road just east of Cowan late Thursday morning. The hostage drama prompted an evacuation of the store, a detour of traffic around the busy intersection, and SWAT team negotiators trying to safely end a dangerous situation.
Blanchard had failed to appear in court Thursday morning after he was served with an emergency domestic abuse protection order eight days ago.
He was apparently after his estranged wife when he came to the Winn Dixie armed with a semi automatic rifle, two hand guns and multiple rounds of ammunition.
SWAT quickly surrounded the Winn Dixie. Police got the initial call around 11:30: A man with a gun inside the grocery store.
"We responded to a reported barricaded individual. And upon arrival we set up a perimeter," said Chaix.
In a matter of minutes, police officers swarmed the area.
Traffic was detoured, the police mobile command center was in place and a crowd began to gather around that perimeter.
WLOX News talked with a relieved Sam Sagers, whose wife was among the Winn Dixie employees at work when the gunman came calling.
"He just came in my wife's pharmacy where she works and put a gun and said 'Call my pastor.' If there's a silver lining, maybe they'll talk some sense into him," said Sagers.
Police confirm that Blanchard's pastor was called to the scene.
The Winn Dixie was safely evacuated of its employees and customers, who were moved to a safe location.
The curious crowd quickly increased, as did the police presence and equipment.
"We had Harrison County Sheriff's Office providing assistance, Biloxi Police Department provided assistance, and the FBI was out there providing assistance," said Chaiz.
Around 1:25 the estranged wife hostage was released.
"He did release his hostage, and he shot himself. She's okay. She's unharmed," said Chaix
The ambulance carrying the gunman left the store a short time later.
"I would say our officers did a fantastic job. We're very proud of them. They were able to come up with a resolution where somebody was safe," said Chaix.