CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) - Cheektowaga Police responded in full force Sunday night, not knowing if two armed suspects were still inside the IHOP restaurant where employees and customers had been forced into a back office.
The Cheektowaga SWAT team set up a perimeter outside the IHOP restaurant on Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga around 9:30 p.m. Inside, three employees, two customers and a friend of an employee had been confronted by two armed men, who displayed a gun and a knife.
PHOTO GALLERY | See images from the scene, as police pull out heavy weaponry
"Both weapons were used to threaten the employees as well as the customers that were inside when they were herded into the back room to try to get into the safe," said Cheektowaga Police Capt. James Speyer.
The suspects threatened the manager's life when the manager was unable to open the safe. At that point, police say the manager called their regional supervisor, who in turn called police.
The robbers stepped out of the back room and an employee took action, pulling the office door shut. Then "another employee or someone who was with them kicked out a prop that was holding open a back door from the office, and that effectively shut them inside the office with no access from the robbery suspects," said Lt. Gerald Jankowski.
The suspects are described as two black males. One is about 6' tall. He was wearing a gray hoody and had green scarf across his face. He was also carrying a black handgun.
The second suspect is about 5'4" tall and was also wearing a hoody. He carried a knife.
After being locked out from where the would-be hostages were, the suspects fled. Heavily armed officers stormed the building and took the victims out of the restaurant. Some were taken out in handcuffs, just as a precaution.
Capt. Speyer explained, "We treated everybody as a potential threat, until we figured out who was who and what their motives were."
The three IHOP employees, two customers, and one friend of an employee were commended by police for actions they took to protect themselves, without anyone being harmed.
In the end, the suspects only made off with the employees' tip money and did not get any money from the locked safe.
Police took witness statements and are reviewing surveillance video to try and track down the suspects. The IHOP restaurant was closed Monday, but is expected to re-open on Tuesday.
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