Faith may have helped end hostage ordeal

January 2, 2011 6:19:10 AM PST
There are new details about what went on inside a bank where several people were held hostage. We're finding out what may have helped the suspected robbers to give up. The ordeal ended shortly after a six-minute phone call. We followed the standoff all day yesterday on Eyewitness News and

Police say two men tried to rob a Chase Bank in Pearland and then it turned into a hostage situation. And we've learned faith may have helped it end peacefully.

It was the last thing Pastor John Davis thought he'd hear when he answered his phone yesterday afternoon, the voice of a scared church member turned hostage. The call came four hours into the standoff. A few minutes later, the alleged armed bank robber took the phone and told the pastor he needed prayer, and with a special prayer request.

"It was obvious that she was on the edge of tears, if not in tears, that she was very panicked very frightened," he said.

At the time, five hostages had been released. One suspect -- 29-year-old Raymond Johnson -- was in police custody, but 39-year-old Samuel Bonner was still inside, holding two people at gunpoint, one of them "Janie," a bank employee and a member at New Hope Church.

"She said, 'I'm a hostage and there's a man that wants you to pray with him' and she handed the phone to someone," said Pastor Davis.

Stunned by what he was hearing, Pastor Davis prepared himself for what he would hear next.

"He said, 'Is this Pastor John?' I said, 'Yes, this is Pastor John.' He said, 'Here is the deal. I woke up this morning and the thought came to my head that I was going to rob a bank.' I said, 'OK'. And he said,'I'm in this situation and I've got hostages and I'm calling you for prayer.'"

He says Bonner told him he had him on speaker phone so all the hostages could hear.

"He told me that he hadn't hurt anybody," said Pastor Davis. "He just said that he needed forgiveness and so I said, 'I need to know your name before I pray for you' and he said, 'My name is Samuel, like from the Bible' and I said, 'Well that's a good name and when you are ready, we will pray.'"

Pastor Davis says he realized this could be a life or death situation so he wrestled with what to say and then he started praying for Bonner to remain calm for the safety of the hostages and for the suspects own safety.

"It wasn't too long after that that he just hung up the phone," said Pastor Davis.

It was a six minute conversation. About 45 minutes after Bonner hung up, the doors to the bank opened again this time, he released two more hostages and surrendered to police.

Bonner was arrested. All 10 hostages, including three hiding away in a closet, were unharmed. Pastor Davis says it's the outcome he prayed for and says if Bonner ever called him again...

"I would say, 'Samuel, you have got someone who is forever going to be connected to you, someone who believes there is a God in heaven who loves you and that you can live a different life,'" he said.

Pastor Davis told me he hadn't been able to get in touch with "Janie" because the authorities confiscated her cell phone, but she called him for the first time Saturday night to tell him thank you.

Davis says she told him she's bruised physically and mentally, but she is grateful to be alive.

Johnson, 29, and Bonner, 39, have been charged with 13 counts each of aggravated robbery and are being held on bonds totaling $13,000,000 each. They're facing one charge for each of the victims inside the bank during yesterday's tense standoff.