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Hostage standoff ends at LA-area popcorn factory

Posted: April 17, 2013 8:00 a.m.
Updated: April 17, 2013 8:00 a.m.

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — An employee of a gourmet popcorn company distraught over a relationship-gone-wrong with a co-worker held an executive at gunpoint for hours Tuesday before crisis negotiators convinced her to surrender, police said.

Leonora Banuelos, 21, walked into an office with a handgun at a distribution center for Popcornopolis and took the company's chief financial officer hostage, El Segundo police Capt. Bob Turnbull said.

Banuelos told all the other employees to leave the center, and several called 911, Turnbull said.

The building was soon surrounded by police officers, including a SWAT team, Turnbull said.

Banuelos released the CFO unharmed after about three hours as police negotiators convinced her to surrender.

The executive's name has not been released.

Banuelos was upset over a failed relationship with another co-worker, but that person was not in the building, police Lt. Ray Garcia told the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

Popcornopolis sells more than 20 varieties of popcorn, most famously a dark-and-white-chocolate "zebra" flavor, via mail order and company stores in six states.

"I would never have expected this," Wally Arnold, one of the company's founders who was standing outside during the standoff, told the Press-Telegram. "We are grateful that everything appears to have concluded in the best possible way. We are grateful for our courageous employees. "

Banuelos was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment and making criminal threats, the police statement said.

She was being held on $100,000 bail. It was not clear whether she had retained an attorney.


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