All the credit goes to the citizens of this neighborhood for protecting their neighbors. I'm just thankful we're not working a homicide today. It could have easily been three deaths; it could have been one of our officers hurt.
A seven-hour standoff came to a peaceful end Tuesday evening after Bradley County sheriff's deputies subdued the suspect and his hostage, who turned out to be his girlfriend.
Mark Cain, 38, and his girlfriend, Andrea Pridgen, 32, face several felony charges in connection with the standoff.
For Cain, those include two counts of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary, theft over $1,000 and fugitive from justice. He is also wanted on multiple outstanding criminal warrants in North Carolina and Georgia, including felony larceny, theft by receiving stolen property, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Pridgen is charged with theft over $1,000. Though she is a suspect, she is still considered a hostage because Cain held a gun to her head during the incident, Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson said.
The standoff unfolded after an elderly woman called 911 to report a suspicious vehicle in the roadway in front of her house in the Royal Oaks subdivision just before 10 a.m. Tuesday.
A deputy initiated a traffic stop and realized the vehicle had been stolen in Georgia. When the deputy approached the vehicle, Cain, who was standing on the passenger side of the vehicle next to Pridgen, pointed a gun at her head and ran through the elderly woman's yard. He then broke into the elderly woman's home through a window, kicking in the front door.
Watson said the deputy wasn't able to stop Cain as he was running toward the home because the deputy didn't have a clear shot without possibly injuring Pridgen, too.
"[The deputy] didn't want to take [the shot]," he said.
He added that the officer had a canine, but didn't want to risk Cain shooting the woman in response, "so the dog was called back off."
The elderly woman was home when the two broke in and she barricaded herself in a bedroom.
The SWAT team was able to contact her via her house phone and she was eventually able to escape by crawling through a back window.
"She stayed on the line with deputies the whole time before they got her out of the house," Watson said.
Once the woman was out, Cain used the other house phone to communicate with negotiators until negotiations fell through. At that point, gas was deployed into the home in an effort to drive out Cain and Pridgen.
During the standoff, residents were not allowed to enter or exit the single-entrance neighborhood. School resource officers stayed at schools to be with children who live in the neighborhood until their parents could retrieve them.
No one was injured, no gunshots were fired, and Cain did not make any threats toward law enforcement. The only threats he made were toward Pridgen.
Toward the end of the standoff, two people drove up to the scene and were escorted up the hill toward the home. Spokesman Lt. James Bradford said they were Cain's parents. It was not clear how they assisted in negotiations, if at all.
By about 4:45 p.m., both Cain and Pridgen were in custody.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will also press federal charges because Cain was a felon in possession of a firearm, Watson said.
He said members of the Department of Homeland Security also assisted in the standoff.
"All the credit goes to the citizens of this neighborhood for protecting their neighbors," Watson said. "I'm just thankful we're not working a homicide today. It could have easily been three deaths; it could have been one of our officers hurt."
Neighbors John and Diana Lombard said they had lived in the neighborhood for 16 years and had never experienced an event like Tuesday's standoff.
"It's quite extraordinary," John said.
Though they said they were a bit startled and surprised to see the barrage of law enforcement vehicles in front of their home, they're not too concerned for their safety.
This is a developing story and was updated Nov. 28 at 10 p.m. Stay with the Times Free Press as more information becomes available.