ISLE OF PALMS, SC (WCSC) - A 39-year-old North Carolina man is behind bars after witnesses reported that he held a woman hostage at an Isle of Palms grocery market on Wednesday.
The Isle of Palms Police Department arrested Robert Howell and charged him with attempted murder, kidnapping, first-degree burglary, possession of a weapon during a violent crime and first-degree possession of cocaine.
According to the victim's attorney, the victim and suspect had a relationship at one time.
On Wednesday at 8 a.m., Isle of Palms police officers responded to several calls about a man inside Hudson's Market on Palm Boulevard holding a woman hostage.
Investigators say while Howell and the victim were in the market, the victim indicated she was in trouble to an employee who then called police.
"[The victim] mouthed 'Call police' to one of the the clerks, and one of the clerks did that," said Sgt. Jefferey Swain with the IOPPD.
In 911 audio tapes released on Thursday, an employee at the market can be heard speaking to an emergency operator about the situation and handing the phone over to the victim.
"I need you to come to Wild Dunes, please. There's a man with a gun and he's holding me hostage," the victim said."I need you to get here quick."
After the victim tells the operator the name of the suspect, a commotion and screaming can be heard.
"Something tipped [Howell] off that the police were on their way and that's when the ruckus kind of broke out in Hudson's Market," Swain said.
According to IOPPD officials, Howell realized what the victim had done and took the victim outside. Emergency operators then received multiple calls of the incident from employees and visitors at the market regarding a man armed with a gun.
A police sergeant arrived on scene and reported seeing Howell holding a gun in his right hand while struggling with the victim in a nearby open field behind the market.
Authorities say the sergeant spoke to Howell and eventually took him into custody.
The victim told police that the incident started when Howell kidnapped her from her home on Dunecrest Lane after unlawfully entering her residence. The victim said she awoke in her bedroom and saw Howell place a gun to her head and threatened to kill her.
"She took steps to save herself and to save her child and babysitters who were in the house," Swain said."She wanted to remove him from there. She indicated she wanted to leave the house with him and wanted to go somewhere, maybe he could calm down, go get some coffee. And that's how they ended up at Hudson's Market."
The victim said prior to police arriving, Howell was forcing her to an area away from witnesses so that he could shoot her.
Police say throughout the incident, Howell placed the gun to the victim's head multiple times, and made several statements to the victim that he was going to kill her.
In addition, officers reported finding less than a gram of cocaine in Howell's vehicle.
The victim's attorney commended the Isle of Palms Police Department for saving the woman's life.