Chillicothe native holds hostages in Wheaton, ends standoff by killing himself

Brian Hudson

The following is a story about a Chillicothe native, Michael Long, and what happened at a Wheaton bank Sept. 5. He was a 1986 graduate of Illinois Valley Central High School.

Community still bewildered by standoff

On a typical suburban block in west Wheaton, etched out of the marshy Belleau Woods Forest Preserve, neighbors say that from afar Michael Long seemed an ordinary family man.

They recall seeing Long working on his Jeep or walking his oldest daughter to the bus stop. Over the summer, he built a play set in the backyard for his two young children.

“I thought he was a real nice guy,” said Richard Skonning, who lives across the street. “Whenever I saw him or he saw me, we would wave.”

So they could only imagine what led 41-year-old Long to wrest a gun from a police officer Friday and hold a dozen people hostage in a downtown Wheaton bank before killing himself.

“I don’t understand why that could ever happen,” Skonning said. “He didn’t seem like that kind of person.”

Less than a week after the three-hour standoff at Wheaton Bank & Trust Co., details are slowly emerging about what transpired inside and around the bank that afternoon.

At 1:28 p.m., a Wheaton police officer responded to an apparently fake call about a hit-and-run accident at the bank. When he was surveying the parking lot, Long approached the officer from behind and held a blade to his neck. Long disarmed him, cutting the officer’s  forearm in the struggle, and headed into the bank, where he ordered the 10 to 12 employees and customers to the floor.

For the rest of the afternoon, downtown Wheaton was in a state of lockdown. Police cordoned off a several-block area around the bank at 211 S. Wheaton Ave., and train traffic along the nearby Metra/Union Pacific West line was halted. The FBI, DuPage County sheriff’s department and Glen Ellyn and Naperville police were called in to help.

Inside the bank, employees and customers on the first floor stayed calm, said bank President Bob Hutchinson.

“The main thing to keep in mind: These employees held together,” he said.

Hutchinson was out of the bank that afternoon, and he watched the situation unfold from next door at Kale Uniform Shop, where police set up a command post.

From there, police negotiated the gradual release of 10 of the hostages over a telephone landline. Bank officials said there were 14 people — 12 employees and two customers — on the ground floor of the bank that day, though some were not directly involved.

“(The hostages) respected the fact that they were together and they didn’t know if one would be singled out to be released,” Hutchinson said. “They didn’t know who was going to be next, but they all felt for each other. In many cases, they were embracing each other.

“In one case when they were offered to be released, they said, ‘Let our customers go first,’ which is amazing. And they did,” he said. “Luckily, the law enforcement did a very good job with releasing people.”

But by 4:15 p.m., communications had broken down. Long had drawn the shades in the bank, and at that time police outside heard a single gunshot.

SWAT team members rushed in and found Long sitting in a chair in an employee’s office, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. The DuPage County coroner’s office ruled it a suicide.

It was the only shot fired during the ordeal, said Wheaton Deputy Police Chief Tom Meloni.

Long’s relatives have said they were shocked by what happened Friday afternoon.

“I will say that this is not him,” said a cousin living near Peoria, who asked not to be identified because of family concerns.

She said that as the family is preparing for a funeral ceremony at the end of this week, they have not told his two daughters, both of whom are younger than 7, exactly what happened.

“(The) children don’t know,” the cousin said. “There’s no reason at this point for them to wrap their minds around that.”

Long also had a teenage son from a previous marriage, and the cousin said she remembers above all else that Long was a loving father. That made the news all the more startling.

“None of us could see him doing that,” she said. “The entire family is devastated.”

But they are also thankful that no one else was seriously harmed.

“It would have been so much harder to take if someone else had been injured."

Wheaton Bank & Trust Co. remained closed over the weekend as police wrapped up their investigation. The front glass door, broken when the SWAT team breached the building, had to be replaced.

By Tuesday morning, the bank was back on schedule, opening at 8 a.m. Employees were greeted with breakfast when they came in.

Although employees could have taken time off, everyone showed up to work this week, Hutchinson said proudly.

“We certainly offered them all kinds of days off for the future, but they all wanted to be here,” he said. “They stayed very strong.”