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Man Kidnapped on Christmas Eve

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Then the assailants called his friends to demand a ransom for his return.

The hostage situation dragged on for hours into the early morning of Christmas Eve, according to Richmond Police, who were called by the victim's friends at 1 a.m. on Dec. 24. In the ensuing 45 minutes, city and state police gave chase.

"It's one of the most dangerous cases I've ever been involved with," says Richmond Police Sgt. John Hall, a nine-year veteran who was 4th Precinct duty sergeant on the night of the pursuit.

The kidnappers engaged in cell-phone conversations with the victim's friends, who were told to deliver a ransom to a drop-off site at a convenience store at Belvidere and Grace streets. Police listened in, Hall says.

"We had to get something in play immediately," Hall says. Police used a special radio channel so the system wouldn't be overloaded. To avoid detection, they called in a Richmond Police airplane to follow the friends to the drop-off site.

Events didn't unfold as planned.

The kidnappers fled the scene and called for a second drop-off site, then a third, Hall says: "The operation was evolving so quickly. We were preparing for anything."

The abductors settled on a drop-off at a convenience store at the intersection of Fairfield Avenue and Mechanicsville Turnpike. There, 13 officers prepared to move in to apprehend the men.

But just then, Henrico County Police alerted them to an unrelated pursuit going on that would force them into the same area and potentially spoil their plan.

So police moved in immediately. Under pressure, the kidnappers abandoned the man, who ran to police. The victim, whose name is not being released, was taken to VCU's MCV Hospitals. The man sustained minor injuries; he has since been released.

Police on foot caught three suspects in nearby woods, Hall says. They found a fourth in an abandoned car. And they recovered three handguns and a sawed-off shotgun. Two of the suspects remained free at press time. Hall describes them as black males in their 30s.

At press time the case had resulted in 20 felony and four misdemeanor charges.

Hall says he is recommending four "excellent police duty medals" and two commendations for officers from his unit. It goes to show, he says, "that anything can happen at a moment's notice." — B.W.

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