A midmorning robbery gone awry at a Denver RadioShack store Friday turned into a six-hour standoff with police during which the robbers held a store employee hostage and stayed active on Facebook.
The showdown, which began just after 9:45 a.m. with gunfire and forced the closure of East Colfax Avenue in both directions and the evacuation of nearby residents and businesses and the lockdown of four schools, ended peacefully just after 4 p.m. with no one injured and two men in custody.
"After a six-hour negotiation, I can't overemphasize the phenomenal job done by the men and women of the Police Department," said Denver Police Chief Robert White at a news conference on a street corner just after the suspects were driven awayfrom the scene in the back of police cruisers.
During the standoff, relatives and friends of the suspects and the store employee converged on East Colfax Avenue near Glencoe Street, holding prayer circles, sending electronic messages with smartphones and helping negotiators work toward a peaceful ending by talking to the suspects over the phone.
A brother of one of the suspects even gave officers his cellphone to have them call his sibling.
An hour into the ordeal, one of the suspects, Taveuan Williams, uploaded a photograph of himself and another young man taken with a cellphone inside a store and posted it to his Facebook page.
Police have not confirmed that the photo is of the suspects or that Williams was on social media during the standoff.
It is unknown who took the photo, but it showed two men in a store with a comment by Williams, "Swear to God ima die ... last pic."
Within minutes, friends of Williams' began leaving comments under the photo, pleading with him to give up and to think about his young daughter.
"Come on man! Yo daughter needs you," wrote one poster 20 minutes after Williams posted the photograph. "Think about her!"
The day-long ordeal began at 9:48
Photos: RadioShack Colfax standoff
Police who were nearby responded to the report of a robbery in progress, arriving within minutes to find the store's back door open and one robber attempting to leave the store. The robber fired at police and ran back into the store, taking store employee Chris Nimerfroh, 28, hostage and barricading them inside.
"They were just coming out, seems like they were shooting at us, myself and my partner, and they are barricaded in there now," said one officer on the dispatch recordings archived on the online site RadioReference.com.
Police reported several shots being fired
At about 10:40 a.m., SWAT officers using a bulletproof shield entered the store as the suspects holed up with the hostage in the manager's office, according to dispatch recordings. Police believed the suspects were watching their movements from the store's video security system.
Police did not immediately release names of the men who were arrested, but late Friday the second suspect was identified by 9News as 23-year-old Michael Annan.
White said the suspects, who had told family members they feared they would be killed, were given "assurances that if they came out unarmed, they would be safely secured."
Photographs of the standoff's end showed shirtless
Throughout the late morning and early afternoon, family members and friends clustered near the police command post in the parking lot of the Taco Bell west of RadioShack, crying and talking with one another and on cellphones and praying.
Some were allowed to speak to a 19-year-old man inside the store they identified as Taveuan Williams.
Early in the standoff, Ernest Watson, who said he has known Williams since he was a little boy, spoke to him and asked him to give up.
He said Williams told him: "We're not coming out. We're going to be in jail for life, Uncle. We shot at cops."
"He is very scared," Watson said, noting that a second man in the store, whom he called "Gangster," took the phone from his friend.
Nimerfroh's parents also arrived at the scene after hearing news reports that a hostage had been taken at a RadioShack in Denver.
Melissa Nimerfroh realized it was likely her son's store.
The couple quickly drove downtown. Her husband sprinted down Colfax toward police, shouting, "I need help! I need someone to talk to me."
Police corralled the couple and took them to the command post.
Melissa Nimerfroh talked to reporters, describing her son as "really strong. A religious guy."
During the early part of the standoff, Williams was apparently active on Facebook, posting the photo and accepting friend requests, including from members of the media.
Watson, the longtime family friend, said Williams started getting into more serious trouble after the death of a close relative last year.
Aaron Williams, whom Taveuan Williams referred to as a cousin and a brother on his Facebook page, was shot to death by Aurora police in March 2011.
Aaron Williams, who was 20, shot an officer in the leg during a traffic stop and then took a family hostage before being killed.
"We go bacc thys (stuff) is senseless but life has a purpose (and) yu took ur course RIP Aaron Williams," Taveuan Williams wrote March 18, 2011, on his Facebook page.
Court records show a 19-year-old named Taveuan Williams pleaded guilty in February to Class 5 felony theft in Arapahoe County and pleaded guilty to felony theft in Denver in 2011.
His record shows a number of other minor offenses, including giving false information to a police officer and disorderly conduct.
Early on, police cars lined Glencoe north of Colfax and police pointed their guns toward the store from behind open car doors. Others searched the alley behind the store with their guns drawn.
Jill Warner, co-owner of Mod Livin', said her business was shut down and police snipers climbed onto the roof of her building.
"This is so bad for this neighborhood for this to happen," she said.
Four elementary schools near the RadioShack — Palmer, Teller, Park Hill and Montclair — were locked down, and parents had to sign out their children at the end of the day.
Ed Jackson, who lived next to Taveuan Williams for eight years, cried when he saw the young man's photo on Facebook.
"This ain't happening," he said. "Holy spirit, take control. He's not a bad kid. He's a scared kid. When I heard about this, I came running to try to save his life."
Staff writers Elana Ashanti Jefferson and Eric Lubbers and photographer Kathryn Scott Osler contributed to this report.