Domestic Abuse Possibly Sparked Hostage Situation

PANAMA CITY-- An armed man who allegedly sent harassing text messages to his daughter and ex-wife is in the Bay County jail. 56-year-old Rayburn Belgard Jr. is accused of taking two of her co-workers hostage Tuesday morning.

Law enforcement arrested Belgard at the North Florida Medical Plaza, off Harrison Avenue, his ex-wife's employer. The hostage situation ended after Belgard apparently decided to surrender, walking out of the lobby and into police custody. "Once he realized we [police] had resources there, he made up on his own mind just to come out and surrender to our officers," Panama City Police Chief Scott Ervin said.

Authorities say Belgard and his ex-wife separated several weeks ago, but he'd begun sending her and his daughter threatening text messages.

Local domestic violence experts say it's not unusual for separated spouses to display irrational behavior. "One of the most dangerous times for victims is when they try to leave those situations. It's due to the fact that the perpetrator lost that control over that individual. So they are pretty much going to do anything they can to try and maintain that power and control," Salvation Army Domestic Violence Unit Executive Director Kimberly Garbett said.

Belgard's ex-wife recently filed cyberstalking and domestic assault charges against him. Experts say victims should also inform close friends and employers about potential problems. Garbet said, "It's really important for victims to make sure that when they are working their employers are aware of potential dangers to them."

Garbet says victims report more than 300 domestic abuse cases each month. It's her job to let the victim's know their options. She said, "This is not the victims fault. The victim didn't do anything to cause this."

Belgard's charged with false imprisonment, aggravated assault, armed burglary, resisting arrest without violence, as well as the charges associate with the texting.

Police have arrested a man after he held several people hostage Tuesday morning.

Police responded to North Florida Medical Plaza on Harrison Avenue around 7:20 Tuesday morning after receiving a call about a man holding employees hostage.

Police say Rayburn Belgard Jr. was inside the building in the back offices with a firearm. The building was then evacuated and secured.

A short time later Belgard walked to the front of the building where police officers were able to make contact with him. Police say they were able to take him into custody without incident.

On Monday, police say they responded to a call in reference to Belgard sending threatening text messages to his wife, Linda Belgard, and their daughter, Rebecca.

Officers had tried to locate him Monday but were unable to.

Belgard is facing multiple charges including false imprisonment.