Man at center of hostage situation has lengthy criminal history - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Man at center of hostage situation has lengthy criminal history


Eau Claire (WQOW) - New details were released Thursday about the suspect at the center of a hostage situation in Eau Claire Wednesday.

James Albrecht, has a lengthy criminal history, going as far back as 1999.  That includes burglary, drug possession and armed robbery. In that case, he was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Wednesday, after police tried to stop him for allegedly driving off without paying for gas, he then broke into a home on Hidden Place in Eau Claire, armed with a gun.  Police say he held 5 people hostage.

The neighborhood was shut down for hours as police and swat officers moved in.  Through negotiations, Albrecht was arrested peacefully and no one was hurt.

Police confirmed that this home invasion was a random act and Albrecht did not know the family.

The Eau Claire Police Department says after running from police, Albrecht forced his way into the home on Hidden Place. Initially police were trying to figure out which building Albrecht went into.

Police say they saw someone waving their arms from the window, trying to get their attention.  They say they were able to get in touch with Albrecht on his cell phone and started negotiations with him that way.

There were two adults and three children inside. Police say the children were all under the age of five.

WQOW News 18 asked police if Albrecht specifically threatened the family. They say while they still don't know exactly what took place inside the home, they do know he was displaying a gun.

Loni Lerum, a neighbor, says, "It's terrifying. Like, knowing there's kids involved. That makes it so much worse. But, for anybody it's awful, I don't know how you would get over that."

Officer Kyle Roder, with the Eau Claire Police Department, says, "You know, a lot of us have kids that same age. People need to remember that we have emotions as police officers too, and it's difficult for us because we have connection. Not only are these our community members, but we relate because this becomes personal to our officers."

Police say the hostages did a great job helping them out when they could.

WQOW News 18 went back to the home on Hidden Place Thursday and spoke with a man who said his wife was one of the hostages.  He said she did an amazing job handling the situation. He also says he was thankful for all the of the prayers everyone sent.

Wednesday the Eau Claire Area School district took some extra steps to keep kids safe during the standoff. The district says Putnam Heights, which is the closest school to Hidden Place, was put on a hold.  Students were not allowed to go out to recess. And until police confirmed it was an isolated incident, students were asked to stay in their classrooms.

The district says about twenty students, who live in the neighborhood, either stayed at the school or were picked up by a family member.


Eau Claire (News Release) - On Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 1:14 p.m. the Eau Claire Communications Center received and broadcast information regarding a vehicle that had just been involved in a theft of gas in Dunn County. The dispatcher recalled that this was the same vehicle that Eau Claire Police Department Detectives were looking for related to other investigations in the City of Eau Claire. The presumed driver of the vehicle was James J.M. Albrecht who was currently absconding from community supervision and had criminal history that included convictions for Armed Robbery, Burglary, Resisting Arrest, Possession of Methamphetamine and Carrying a Concealed Weapon.

While patrolling Craig Road, an Eau Claire Police Department Patrol Officer located the vehicle with Albrecht driving. The officer followed and contacted the vehicle in a parking lot on Imperial Circle. At that point, Albrecht quickly backed up toward the officer nearly striking the squad car before attempting to flee in the vehicle. Albrecht fled the vehicle on foot after the vehicle became disabled on a snowbank. It was at that point that the officer observed a handgun in Albrecht's hand as he ran from the scene.

Officers pursued Albrecht as he ran westbound down the hill behind businesses on Craig Road toward multifamily dwellings on Hidden Place. Officers lost sight of Albrecht and set up a perimeter to contain him in the immediate area. A search of the area quickly revealed that Albrecht had entered one of the housing units. Additional information showed that multiple innocent residents were also inside the unit, including three children.

Officers from multiple law enforcement jurisdictions including the Eau Claire County Sheriff's Office Regional Tactical Team and the Eau Claire Police Department Tactical Response and Crisis Negotiation Teams arrived on scene and began a hostage negotiation with Albrecht. The Crisis Negotiation Team was able to gain the release of all five hostages at various stages throughout the five and a half hour negotiation.

At 7:46 p.m. negotiators secured the peaceful surrender of James Albrecht. Members of the Tactical Response Team took him into custody without further incident. During follow-up investigation and search of the residence, investigators recovered a loaded handgun and other weapons that belonged to Albrecht. No one was physically injured during the duration of this case. James Albrecht is being held in the Eau Claire County Jail and is expected to appear in Eau Claire County Circuit Court on Friday.

"This was a very dangerous situation that was caused by one individual who has since been arrested. He put the public in danger and traumatized five innocent people, including three children. He will be held accountable for his actions," added Eau Claire Police Chief Jerry Staniszewski. "Thankfully the Eau Claire Police Department trains for situations like this and was ready to take action to protect the community and this family in need."

The Eau Claire Police Department appreciates the support and patience of the Eau Claire community and the assistance of all of the agencies that actively assisted during this incident:

- Eau Claire Police Department

 -Patrol Division

 -Detective Division

 -Crisis Negotiation Team

 -Tactical Response Team

 -Crime Scene Unit

- Eau Claire Communications Center

 -Eau Claire County Sheriff's Office

 -Eau Claire County Sheriff's Office Regional Tactical Team

 -West Central Drug Task Force

 -University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire Police Department

 -Wisconsin State Patrol

 -Wisconsin Department of Justice – Division of Criminal Investigation

 -Wisconsin Department of Corrections

 -Eau Claire County

 -District Attorney's Office

 -Crisis Response



 -City of Eau Claire

 -City Manager's Office

 -Fire Department

 -Transit Department

 -Public Works

 -Eau Claire Area School District


Eau Claire (WQOW) - After police surround an Eau Claire home for more than seven hours, a hostage situation ends peacefully.

"At any point, anything bad could happen to anybody inside the house or to us or to him," says Lieutenant Jim Southworth. "So for it to come out this way is a very, very positive thing for everybody involved."

Let out one at a time, five hostages, including three children are safe Wednesday night after a home invasion in Eau Claire.

Police say James Albrecht has been arrested. He was taken into custody just after 8 o'clock Wednesday night on the city's south side.

A pursuit this afternoon led police to zero in on a town home along Hidden Place off of Craig Road and West Hamilton. 

Police say Albrecht broke into the home, armed with a gun and held five people hostage for several hours. The neighborhood was shut down as police and swat officers moved in.

"It's what we spend a lot of time training for, and hopefully never have to use these different things like the negotiation skills and to call the tactical team out," Southworth says.  "But this is the reason why we have these units and why we train so hard and to keep ourselves updated is for instances like this, so that when they do come out successful we can feel proud of what we've done as a team, as an agency and as a community."

Through negotiations, the hostages were released. Police say almost immediately afterwards, Albrecht was arrested without incident or injuries to the hostages or the police officers involved. Police say charges against Albrecht are pending.

They say he has a criminal history that includes armed robberies, burglary and possession of meth. 

According to police, it all started when a driver at a gas station in Dunn County took off without paying prompting law enforcement to send out a vehicle description.

An Eau Claire police officer then spotted the vehicle in the Hamilton Avenue area. They believed Albrecht was behind the wheel. Albrecht was wanted on department of corrections warrants, and it's still not clear what those warrants are for.

After being spotted by the Eau Claire officer Albrecht tried to flee and nearly hit a squad car. A short time later, he was seen running to Hidden Place and police believed he had a gun.

From there, police camped out in the area as Albrecht holed up in a town home.

Some nearby businesses were put on lockdown; Phillips Plastics and Xcel Energy are believed to be among them.

Residents who live in the area were kept in their homes or away from the neighborhood until just after 8 o'clock when Albrecht was safely taken into custody.

"I'm just glad the police got out here and moved people out of the area so there wasn't anything that happened, that would be tragic," says Shelia Kalish who lives nearby. "I would have to move. I don't think I could stay here even though this was probably random, I don't know if I could stay in this neighborhood," she explains.

"I'm glad nobody got hurt I'm glad they were able to diffuse the situation," says Ryan Barfknecht. "I just pray for the family that was held hostage, I'm sure there will be some traumatic experiences going on."

It was not until after Albrecht was taken into custody that police revealed he had been holding people hostage inside the town home.

They are all safe. We do not know if Albrecht had any connection to these hostages and at this point, police say they don't believe they knew each other.


Eau Claire Police Department (News Release) - At approximately 8 p.m., Eau Claire Police apprehended James J. Albrecht, a 31 year old at an apartment located on Hidden Place, in Eau Claire, WI. Charges are still pending the follow up investigation taking place at this time.

During the incident, Albrecht committed an armed home invasion and took five people hostage, including three children. Through negotiations, the hostages were released and Albrecht was taken into custody without incident or any injuries to the victims or the police officers involved.

Albrecht has a criminal history that includes, but is not limited to, armed robberies, carrying a concealed weapon, resisting arrest, burglary, and methamphetamine possession.

The Eau Claire Police Department was able to successfully resolve this incident with the assistance of the Eau Claire County Sheriff's Department, the Eau Claire Fire Department, UW-Eau Claire Police Department and the City of Eau Claire Public Transit.

With the apprehension of Albrecht, the neighborhood area surrounding Hidden Place is safe and residents may resume normal activity. The Eau Claire Police Department would like to thank the residents and public for their cooperation by staying outside the secured area while this dangerous situation was resolved.

A more detailed press release will be provided tomorrow pending charging decisions by the Eau Claire District Attorney's Office.


Eau Claire (WQOW) - Eau Claire police say suspect in standoff on Hidden Place is now in custody. Everyone is safe.

Eau Claire police have cleared the scene. People living in that area are now being told they can return to their homes.

More details to follow.


Eau Claire (WQOW) - A manhunt leads to a standoff in Eau Claire.

The manhunt started Wednesday afternoon around 1 p.m. and there is still no resolution. A man is holed up inside a townhouse and police believe he has a gun. What we don't know is whether he has hostage.

Police have zeroed in on a townhouse along Hidden Place, off Craig Road in Eau Claire. 

The incident started when a driver left a Dunn County gas station without paying for fuel. Eau Claire police spotted the vehicle in the Hamilton Avenue area. The suspect tried to get away and almost hit a squad car. A short time later, a man was seen running to Hidden Place.

"Information has been received that the subject is armed with a gun and is not cooperating with being taken into custody," Lt. Jim Southworth told WQOW News 18. "We continue to talk with the subject to gain his cooperation and resolve this incident peacefully."

Police are once again encouraging residents to stay away from the area. They also say anyone who lives in that area may not be able to return to their homes for awhile.

Stay with WQOW News 18 for the latest on this developing story.


Eau Claire (WQOW) - Eau Claire police say the suspect is inside an apartment on Hidden Place which is surrounded by police. Officers are in contact with the suspect, but he is not cooperating with police.

Continue to stay with WQOW News 18 for the latest on this developing story.


Eau Claire (WQOW) - Eau Claire police tell WQOW News 18 that negotiators are now in the Hidden Place area, attempting to bring the manhunt to a peaceful end.

Police say the incident all started when a driver at a Dunn County gas station left without paying. Dunn County authorities sent a message to law enforcement in the area with a vehicle description. The person authorities believe was driving is wanted on Department of Corrections warrants. It's unknown what those warrants are for.

An Eau Claire office then saw that vehicle in the Hamilton Avenue area. The driver, a man, attempted to flee and almost hit a squad car in the process. A short time after that, the man fled on foot to Hidden Place. An officer believed he saw the man holding a gun.

Cops have set up a perimeter in that area.  Negotiators, the tactical response team, crime scene unit and K-9 unit are in the area. Officers believe the man is in the area, and could be inside an apartment.  Some of the nearby businesses are on lockdown. Police believe Phillips Plastics and Xcel Energy may be among them.

Police are once again encouraging residents to stay away from the area. They also say anyone who lives in that area may not be able to return to their homes for awhile.

Stay with WQOW News 18 for the latest on this developing story.


Eau Claire (WQOW) - Our reporter, who's located along Hidden Place, sees at least 15 squad cars at this time. Officers have their guns out, have set up a perimeter in that neighborhood and seem to be focusing on Hidden Place at this time.  It doesn't appear anyone has been arrested yet.

Eau Claire Police say the man they're searching for had a warrant out for his arrest. Police say he tried to ram a squad car before he ran off, sparking the manhunt.

Stay with WQOW News 18 for the latest on this developing story.


Eau Claire (WQOW) - Eau Claire police have told us there's an incident near Hidden Place & Hamilton Avenue, off of Craig Rd. right now. They are searching for a man believed to be armed.

Our reporter on scene sees officers with guns drawn in that neighborhood.  Police are telling residents to stay away from the area.

Stay with WQOW News 18 for the latest on this developing story.

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