Employee Takes Popcorn Company Exec Hostage

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (KTLA) — A police standoff came to a peaceful end in El Segundo on Tuesday, after a female employee took a popcorn company executive hostage.

It happened first thing in the morning around 8:20 a.m. as employees were arriving to work.

From the get go, police said they couldn’t tell what the woman’s motive was or whether she was going to shoot.

Witnesses said they were horrified as screaming employees ran from Popcornopolis on the corner of El Segundo Boulevard and Oregon Street.

“Pretty scary… nervous because this is the second incident that has taken place within the last few months,” said Shimeka Lott, who works next door.

“There was another employee that did a stabbing a few months ago at another building a few blocks over… barricaded us in as well,” she recalled.

Sirens penetrated the air as police swarmed the area and got the warehouse on lockdown. Employees from nearby businesses were told to stay inside their buildings.

“It’s pretty scary when you see police officers running with guns and telling you to get back in and close the door,” Lott said.

Police say an employee, 21-year-old Leonora Banuelos, came in to the popcorn distribution center with a semi automatic handgun and took the company’s CFO hostage.

She was reportedly upset about a failed relationship with a co-worker.

“Several employees fled the area and others hid inside the location, eventually made their way out,” said Lt. Raymond Garcia, of the El Segundo Police Department.

More than half a dozen South Bay police agencies responded, as well as the SWAT team.

After three long hours the CFO was safely released and shortly after, Banuelos have herself up.

“Our crisis negotiators were on the phone with her, they’re very professional people,” Garcia said. “I can only assume that through their work she was able to come out peacefully.”

Banuelos was booked on several charges including assault with a deadly weapon. She was being held on $100,000 bail.

We made several attempts to contact Popcornopolis, but they did not have any comment on the matter.

–Christina Pascucci, KTLA News

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