Three arrested after West Phila robbery turns into hostage situation

Officers took three men into custody early this morning after a robbery turned into a hostage situation in the Belmont section of West Philadelphia.

Police said the standoff occurred when a passerby called in a robbery at Hong Heng Chinese Restaurant and Takeout on the 4200 block of Ogden Street around midnight, which is about the time the store closes, according to neighbors. The caller was reportedly tipped off by the fact that the store’s lowered metal gate and cries that could be heard coming from inside. A neighbor said that the shop is run by a man, his wife and their daughter, about 11 years old.

Officers responding to the scene also heard crying inside the store, declared it a barricade situation and called in SWAT. After three hours of negotiations, authorities arrested three men who were inside and recovered two handguns. The hostages were not hurt, aside from minor injuries one suffered from being pistol-whipped, police said.

Neighbor T.J. McClendon, who lives across the street, said that he heard the commotion through the night. “I stayed in the house and watched the helicopter overhead,” he said. “I don’t want to get involved with cops and things too much. I’m too old – I’m in my eighties.”

He said that police instructed residents to stay inside during the incident. “One of my daughters came out and they told her she better get back in the house,” he said. The scene was still taped off late this afternoon and an officer on the scene said that investigators planned to return because they believed a third weapon may still be inside.

McClendon, who often buys food from Hong Heng, said that similar crimes plague the neighborhood – and city – all too often. “You go in a place, you think you safe and you ain’t,” he said. “No matter where you live, people come out of other places and do dirt. You can’t even stay in your house these days.”

“That’s the reason some people have been on me about getting a gun,” he said. “But if I get one, I’ll use it because I see a lot of dirt.”