Jim on History recalls the time that longtime Phoenix Bill Close was forced at gunpoint to read a statement – which included a prediction that Phoenix would be invaded by ants – on the air.
In May, 1982, Joe Billie Gwin, 28, took four people hostage at the station.
The message needed to be broadcast ”to prevent World War III,” Close quoted Gwin as saying, as Gwin sat holding a gun at his stomach under the desk.
In it were other predictions, such as that that Senator Edward M. Kennedy would become President, and that on July 4, 1984, atomic bombs would flatten cities in Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Nebraska, Idaho and New Mexico.
Gwin entered the television studios about 5 P.M.
One hostage, Louis Villa, 52, a photographer, was held at gunpoint and kept in a ”chokehold” with Gwin’s arm around his neck.
The photographer was struck in the back of the head with the butt of the gun, his shirt back soaked with blood.
He was treated at a hospital and released.
The other hostages were unhurt.
The incident began just before the station’s 5 P.M. newscast.
Mary Jo West, a co-anchor with Close, read the news alone as, on a screen she could see the .38-caliber revolver being held at Villa’s head.
‘I used all my acting skills,’ she said.
Station officials interrupted network programs at 9:30 P.M. to broadcast Gwin’s statement.
The statement called on Johnny Cash, the country-western singer, to notify Queen Elizabeth II to evacuate London before the Argentines could drop an atomic bomb on the city.
The statement also said that five cities would be built in the United States to be inhabited by millions of ‘Anglo men.’
In the course of the reading, Gwin interjected, ‘These men will be homosexuals and I am a homosexual and they are my brothers.’
Close, 61, took the gun after reading the statement and put the weapon on the table.
He waved the police away and briefly shook the intruder’s hand.
Later, he said, ‘I feel that I was in control most of the time, even when he fired a shot into the ceiling. I think I’ll go home and kiss my wife.’
Homer Lane, the station’s vice president and general manager, said that a ‘precedent may have been set’ by allowing the man to go on the air.
‘I think all of us, broadcasting and publishing, all the news media,’ he said,’must secure our premises in a far better fashion.’
WATCH: Jim on History – Anchorman Taken Hostage: