COBB COUNTY, Ga. — The man who held two people hostage and claimed to have a bomb at a Cobb County bank is dead, police said.
The man entered the Wells Fargo at 2675 Windy Hill Road in Marietta around 9:30 a.m. Friday and told employees he had a bomb, according to officers.
The man called the Channel 2 Action News newsroom just before 10:30 a.m. Friday and identified himself as Brian Easley. He claimed he had two people hostage with him and that the bomb had the power to "take out the entire room." He told us he did not want to hurt anyone and if he did detonate the bomb, he would let the two people go.
Channel 2 Action News was able to speak with both hostages who said they were OK. Cobb County police were able to remove the hostages from the bank, but the suspect remained inside, police announced Friday afternoon.
"We felt there was a window of opportunity to get those hostages out and we took that opportunity based on the significance and danger they were in," Cobb County police chief Mike Register said.
Around 1 p.m., a robot breached the front door of the bank. Later at a news conference, authorities said "a member of the tactical team may have been responsible for the deceased." The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is now investigating this as an officer-involved shooting.
Cobb County Commissioner Bob Ott said, “You saw the public safety team come together” and deal with the situation without hostages getting hurt.
“The team”, he said, included Cobb police, Marietta police, Cobb sheriff’s office, GBI, FBI and Georgia State Patrol.
In a conversation that lasted more than 30 minutes with a Channel 2 Action News assignment editor, the suspect said he was a homeless Marine veteran who served two tours in Iraq with a supply company.
He told our assignment editor he was unhappy with his experiences with the VA and had no money to buy food or water. He had been staying at a hotel but said he had no money to continue living there.
Our assignment editor described his tone as calm and respectful during their conversation.
During his conversation with our assignment editor, Easley talked about his estranged wife and 8-year-old daughter. Channel 2's Nicole Carr found Easley's ex-wife in Athens, but she is requesting privacy at this time.
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Channel 2's Matt Johnson spoke to the suspect's brother, who said he was at the bank and could have helped his brother surrender peacefully.
"There could have been a peaceful resolution to this. They did not have to kill him," Calvin Easley said.
Calvin Easley said his brother was frustrated because he said the VA wasn't providing enough care for his PTSD. He said his brother may have taken desperate measures, but he doesn't think he was a real threat to anyone.
"He made bad choices. This was a very bad choice. I believe it was an episode that he was having and he was crying for help," Calvin Easley said.
Ott told Johnson he wants veterans to know there are resources in Cobb County, like the Veterans Service Center on Powder Springs Street.
"The county tries to do as much as we can to help our veterans and it's unfortunate this turned out the way it did," he said.
The commissioner said the center helps veterans navigate the VA's system.
"The whole purpose of that is to help veterans either answer their questions or to get them into the system if they're having trouble with the system," he said.
Brian Easley was in contact with police during the standoff. FBI agent Steve Emmett told Channel 2's Mark Winne the FBI was providing assistance in several areas.
NewsChopper 2 was over the area and saw many police vehicles around and at a nearby gas station. SWAT teams and fire crews are also on scene.
Several roads around the bank were closed for several hours. In addition to Windy Hill Road being blocked off, I-75 ramps to Windy Hill Road were blocked, along with I-285 W ramp to I-75 N, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation. They have since reopened.
Police at the scene told Channel 2's Aaron Diamant the scene was contained and that the public was not at risk. Diamant said law enforcement won't confirm if the suspect had the bomb he claimed.
Authorities said there was a backpack that was taken away from the scene and "rendered safe."
The GBI confirmed Saturday that there were no explosives in the bag.
Police also searched a hotel where the suspect was staying. They said they did not find anything.
Wells Fargo Bank sent a statement which said:
"We are deeply grateful to local law enforcement for their actions to secure the release of our team members today at our Windy Hill branch. We are also saddened that the events today ended in the death of the suspect. We are cooperating fully with the authorities in their investigation, and are referring all questions to the Cobb County Police Department in order to preserve the integrity of that work."