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Workers find increased security at Three Gateway Center

| Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012, 7:48 a.m.

Workers returned to increased security at Three Gateway Center on Monday, the first day back to work after a man took a business executive hostage for nearly six hours in the Downtown building.

The back door was locked, and there were extra security officers in the lobby, said James Garr, who works on the 16th floor of the building.

“You can't just walk into the building and get into the elevators anymore,” Garr said. “I think they make a lot sense. People can't just walk into the building.”

Klein Michael Thaxton, 22, of McKeesport walked into Gateway 3 on Friday morning after watching women freely enter the building that morning, Pittsburgh police said. Armed with a hammer and kitchen knife, he took Charles Breitsman hostage. Police evacuated the building and negotiated with Thaxton for hours. He then released Breitsman, 58, of Ligonier and surrendered. Police charged Thaxton with kidnapping, aggravated assault and terroristic threats. He has a preliminary hearing scheduled for 8 a.m. Wednesday in Pittsburgh Municipal Court.

Breitsman didn't return a call for comment at his office at C.W. Breitsman Associates on the 16th floor of Building 3 on Monday. Investigators said there was no previous connection between Thaxton and Breitsman.

Debra Donley, general manager of Hertz Gateway Center, said the company is trying to balance the safety of tenants while keeping in mind the design of the building, which was meant to reflect the openness of the community.

“We recognize that Friday's incident caused a lot of distress to the community,” Donley said in a prepared statement. “To ensure that our tenants and their guests maintain confidence in the safety of our environment, we have increased security in our buildings and will conduct a thorough review of our systems and make any necessary changes.”

The security officers typically recognize workers who are regularly in the building, Garr said. Still, he's glad the back door — which allowed people to access the elevators without passing by security — is now locked.

“The security people are good,” Garr said. “They know who works here and who doesn't, but if you have a door where people can just walk in and don't have to go by security, it kind of defeats the purpose.”

Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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