Image: Police at McDonald's
Sangjib Min  /  AP
Hampton police officers stand outside the McDonald's restaurant Monday where the supposed hostage standoff unfolded.
updated 6/5/2007 12:18:06 AM ET 2007-06-05T04:18:06

A supposed hostage standoff at a McDonald’s restaurant Monday began with a hoax about a gunman and escalated when employees and customers retreated into a freezer after seeing a large police presence outside, authorities said.

A gunman was nowhere to be found, and the 12 employees and two customers appeared to be fine, Hampton police spokeswoman Cpl. Allison Good said.

Police responded to a cell phone call at 1:54 p.m. by a caller who claimed to have a gun inside the restaurant. Police officers quickly headed to the scene.

Managers saw police swarming outside and apparently ordered the employees and customers into the freezer, which locks from the inside, Good said. The first officers on the scene saw a man standing at the restaurant doorway, and he quickly bolted into the restaurant and disappeared from sight.

A SWAT team surrounded the building, and hostage negotiators tried but failed to contact the man, Good said.

Police also set up a command post near the restaurant, blocked traffic within a half-mile radius and asked people in nearby buildings to remain indoors.

About 4:40 p.m, a SWAT team freed the people from inside the freezer using a key that opened it from the outside, police said. And less than an hour later, officers searched the restaurant and announced there was no gunman.

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