Columbia City bowling alley found empty after potential hostage situation

COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (WANE) – A suspected hostage situation at Main Bowl in Columbia City is over after multiple law enforcement agencies found nobody inside. An “all-clear” was given just before 8:40 Monday night.

Officers were sent to 303 S. Main Street around 5:20 p.m. after dispatchers got a 911 call from a man who identified himself as Mike. He said he’d had a fight with his girlfriend and had hurt her, that he had a weapon with him, and that he was going to possibly hurt himself and get into a shootout with police. Police closed off a two-block area around the building. Officers with long guns and handguns were seen near squad cars and had their weapons pointed in the direction of the bowling alley.

Law enforcement sets up outside Main Bowl in Columbia City Monday for a potential hostage situation.
Law enforcement set up outside Main Bowl in Columbia City Monday for a potential hostage situation.

ISP SWAT and tactical officers worked to make contact with anyone inside the bowling alley. Around 6:45, police used a loudspeaker and said, “Michael, this is the Indiana State Police. Come to the door with your hands up.” Police didn’t identify who “Michael” is or his relationship to the bowling alley.

Main Bowl posted on its Facebook page that it was closed Monday and no employees were inside the building. It sits just southeast of the Whitley County Courthouse, is adjacent to the Whitley County Jail, and is just two blocks from City Hall.

There is an apartment above the bowling alley. A family lives up there, and police had to help three of them evacuate, including a six-year-old girl and her brother, Ricky Kuehner. He told NewsChannel 15 it was one of the scariest moments of his life.

“They said what they wanted to do was to take out the air conditioning unit, climb out onto the roof, and there would be officers down there ready to help us out. It was insane. My mind was running everywhere like what’s going to happen now, but yeah, I’m just glad we’re okay and got out of there safe,” Kuehner said.

There were also customers and workers at the nearby Mexican restaurant Senor Fajitas who had to be evacuated.

Dozens of onlookers gathered in nearby streets and on the lawn of the courthouse to watch events unfold.

Columbia City Police Chief Tim Longenbaugh said it’s been years since this small town has had anything like this happen.

“Columbia City is a small town, so when something happens like this, this is a big deal. A lot of resources have been dumped on this scene today. We’re fortunate that at this point, the building was empty and no one is hurt. We’re glad that that is the outcome, but now we have an investigation to work,” Chief Longenbaugh said.

The bowling is partially separated into two sections. The east end of the building is made up of a restaurant and bar area with seating for dozens of people. The west end of the building is the primary bowling area.

This case is still under investigation. Police said they are trying to trace the call and figure out who is responsible, but aren’t releasing more details than that.


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