Antioch ARCO owner shares experience of being held hostage, offering to be human shield for carjacking suspect

ARCO station owner, "Jack" Bhalla is interviewed the day after being held hostage for three hours, on Wednesday, May 27, 2015.

ARCO station owner, “Jack” Bhalla is interviewed by a TV news reporter, the day after being held hostage for three hours, on Wednesday, May 27, 2015.

By Allen Payton

The very brave owner of the ARCO gas station in Antioch, where the hostage standoff occurred, on Wednesday, May 27, 2015, Jagdish “Jack” Bhalla shared about his experience being held hostage with his employee, Tony, by a gunman and car jacking suspect.

I spoke with him, at his service station, the following day, after being interviewed by reporters from Channels 4 and 11.

Here is his story:

I was standing here,” Bhalla said sitting inside the garage of his gas and service station. “Tony was standing there [pointing to the driveway near the gas pumps] and saw people running. By the time we figured things out, we heard a pop. I don’t know from where. I saw one person running this direction and a police officer following him with a gun in his hand.

He ran and hid behind dispenser [gas pump] three and the police officer was in the driveway.

Tony told me go to the office. The man ran into the mini mart and into the garage. We ran into the office and locked it from inside.

He tried to break one of the side windows to get out but it was welded.

He came to the office and told us to open the door. Then he broke open the door. He told us ‘I’m not going to harm you.’ Then he made a barricade against the door.”

They were in the office with him for about three hours.

We had the air conditioning going in the office. We tried to break the silence. He was breathing really hard. So, I offered him something to drink. He drank a bottle of Brisk tea.”

In the meantime, the police were calling on the business phone.

He was instructing me to pick up the phone or not pick up the phone. He was the one taking directly to police. He would not allow us to talk. I offered him something to eat and he said ‘no thank you.’

He was very polite and gentle to us. He never used any hard language with us.

For some reason he was feeling dizzy and his revolver was slipping out of his hand, which he’d been holding the whole time.

We tried to run out because he was dozing. But the door [inside the mini mart] was stuck.

After that he took us back in the office. After about five minutes he told Tony ‘let him get out, open the door,’ [refering to Bhalla]. But the door could not be opened. So we went back to the office.

He didn’t hurt us. He never pointed the gun at us.

At one point I told the guy ‘your parents will see you dying if you go out. The police will shoot you. I can be a human shield so the police won’t shoot you. I will protect you and they will arrest you. If you go by yourself, they will shoot you.’

All the time he was very respectful of me and Tony. I befriended him.

After a few minutes he said to Tony ‘open the garage door and he let Bhalla out.’

About a half hour later, he let Tony out, as well, because Tony pursued him to surrendere. He emptied the revolver and gave it and the bullets to Tony, who dropped them in the safe. After that Tony was much more comfortable. He also had a stun gun which he also handed to Tony.

Then he let Tony out and then surrendered.”

Bhalla, who lives in Concord, and is in his 70’s, has owned the gas station since April, 1992. Tony lives in Pittsburg.

When asked about his and Tony’s health, following their ordeal, he responded. “Tony has worked here over two years. He’s about 40 [years old] and he’s OK.”

They checked me out when I got to the police station,” Bhalla added. “When they put me in the armored car I hurt my knee.”

Bhalla wanted everyone to know that he plans to tear down his current building and replace it with a new, larger facility and has begun the approval process with the city to do so.

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Jack Bhalla interviewed

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