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Published: 4/30/2009

Standoff suspect arraigned

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Michael Swiergosz, 46, stands with his lawyer, Jane Roman, during his arraignment in Toledo Municipal Court on charges related to Tuesday's hostage-taking at Sunset Retirement Communities. Michael Swiergosz, 46, stands with his lawyer, Jane Roman, during his arraignment in Toledo Municipal Court on charges related to Tuesday's hostage-taking at Sunset Retirement Communities.
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Life is peaceful again at Sunset Retirement Communities, where a gunman held his estranged wife hostage for more than six hours Tuesday before releasing her and surrendering to police.

As harrowing as the experience was, Sunset officials are grateful their emergency procedures worked and no residents were injured, said Karen Ranney Wolkins, the retirement community's vice president of marketing and development.

"Our emergency protocols include workplace violence. When it occurs, you get people to safety," she explained.

It was Mrs. Ranney Wolkins who called 911 after Sunset employee Marilyn Sharkey escaped gunman Michael Swiergosz and fled to the corporate offices on the 10-acre campus at 4040 Indian Rd.

Mrs. Ranney Wolkins said that even as she put the phone down, she could hear the sirens of the arriving Ottawa Hills police. Toledo police were soon there as well.

Mr. Swiergosz ultimately holed up in an unoccupied first-floor apartment in the Woodlands, a 65-unit independent-living facility in the back of the campus. He had taken his estranged wife, Barbara, hostage. Mrs. Swiergosz is activities director at the Woodlands.

The Woodlands and other buildings in the Sunset compound were immediately put on lockdown, Mrs. Ranney Wolkins said. About 30 Woodlands residents who were outside their apartments were evacuated to Sunset's main building.

"Once the police were here, we deferred to them," she said. "The police were fabulous - professional, calm. I can't say enough nice things about the job they did."

According to court documents, Mr. Swiergosz, armed with a .357 Glock handgun, forced Mrs. Sharkey to "lure" Mrs. Swiergosz to him so he could take her captive. Once Mrs. Swiergosz arrived, he hit her on the head with a steel tire iron, causing a "severe laceration to her skull," court documents said.

There were no tears or panic among the Woodlands residents during the ordeal, Mrs. Ranney Wolkins said.

"Everybody was calm. Everybody was concerned about Barbara's safety," she said.

Mr. Swiergosz, 46, of 615 Scenic Circle was arraigned yesterday in Toledo Municipal Court on two counts each of felonious assault and kidnapping. He is in the Lucas County jail in lieu of a $2 million bond.

Toledo police Capt. Ray Carroll said that police were in contact with Mr. Swiergosz after he himself called 911. It was then that he requested talking to Lucas County Sheriff's Sgt. William Talbott, who had negotiated with him during a March 10 standoff.

"He called 911 and told us what apartment he was in," Captain Carroll said. "He said he wanted to talk to [his wife] and for everyone to back off and that he also wanted Sergeant Talbott."

Last month, sheriff's deputies responded to Mr. Swiergosz's previous home, 111 Hidden Meadow Drive, on a domestic violence call. In that case, he is accused of firing two shots and holding deputies at bay for three hours.

He was arraigned April 20 in Lucas County Common Pleas Court on two counts of felonious assault with gun specifications and given a June 10 trial date. A $25,000 bond posted in Sylvania Municipal Court was continued.

Tuesday, Judge Denise Ann Dartt ordered that Mr. Swiergosz's original bond be revoked and reset at $500,000.

Mrs. Ranney Wolkins described the Woodlands as a licensed independent living facility where demand for apartments has created a waiting list. Residents, who are in their late 70s to mid 90s, come and go as they please and are served an evening meal. One has a job at the University of Toledo.

As activities director, Mrs. Swiergosz organizes events such as theme parties, excursions to casinos, and trips to movie theaters, Mrs. Ranney Wolkins said.

"Barb is a wonderful woman. She's a wonderful employee. You can be certain she's surrounded by love from our staff," she said.

Staff writers Erica Blake and JC Reindl contributed to this report.

Contact Carl Ryan at:

carlryan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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