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'Exemplary Employee' Takes CFO Hostage

Image Credit: El Segundo Police Department(EL SEGUNDO, Calif.) -- An “exemplary” employee at a California food company is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday on multiple charges after she allegedly held the firm’s chief financial officer hostage at gunpoint, a day after she abruptly resigned.

Leonora Banuelos, 22, had worked for Popcornopolis, a gourmet popcorn company based in El Segundo, Calif., before allegedly entering the building on Tuesday with a handgun, then demanding to see another employee. She was “distraught over a failed relationship with another co-worker,” according to a police statement.

“She went directly into CFO’s office,” according to Lt. Raymond Garcia of the El Segundo Police Department. “Many of the employees fled out the front door and several fled into the back area.”

At 8:18 a.m. officers responded to the business location.

Garcia said there was no relationship to the CFO, but his proximity and rank as one of the front office workers likely made him a target.

Based on interviews with Banuelos and witnesses, “she wanted to kill him,” Garcia said of the unnamed co-worker with whom she had the relationship. That co-worker was not at the company on Tuesday.

“She was there with a handgun that she purchased specifically to do harm to the co-worker and turned her rage on the CFO,” Garcia said.

Banuelos could not be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said they will learn in court Thursday afternoon whether she has an attorney.

After a three-hour standoff, the CFO, who is not being named by police, was released and Banuelos surrendered to authorities, as first reported by KABC.

Wally Arnold, founder and CEO of Popcornopolis, said the company is “very grateful that everything resolved peacefully.”

“The CFO was selected at random, but thankfully through his calm demeanor and the work of the first responders, the situation was diffused,” Arnold said in a statement. “Ms. Banuelos abruptly resigned her position on Monday night. Prior to that, Ms. Banuelos had been an exemplary employee who had recently received a promotion.”

Garcia said the CFO was released unharmed and “in good spirits,” despite the ordeal. "He thought it was the end for him,” Garcia said.

Banuelos has been charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of false imprisonment, and two counts of making criminal threats. Prosecutors will ask her bail to be set at $300,000, according to a spokeswoman with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

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