OPELIKA, Ala. — Interstate 85 was shut down for 45 minutes Tuesday as authorities were tending to an incident along the southbound lane of the interstate.
According to Opelika Police, a man called the police department around 11:30 a.m. claiming he was being held at gunpoint in his car. Police say when they found the vehicle, it was pulled off the side of the road, and officers found the man in the woods.
Once they reached the man, he told police that he was forced to drive from Atlanta at gunpoint until he was able to pull the vehicle off the side of the road and flee into the woods. The man also told police that there were two other armed men in the bed of the truck.
Opelika Police Chief John McEachern says I-85 was shutdown in both directions as a precaution. Authorities including the SWAT team created a perimeter around the vehicle. After investigating, no men with weapons were found. Soon after, the call was determined to be a false report.
The interstate was shut down for 45 minutes, but eventually was reopened.
Chief McEachern says police take these incidents very seriously, and making a false report it a serious issue.
“It involves intensive man-power hours, and then to shut down any portion of the interstate is dangerous in and of itself,” Chief McEachern says. “Anytime you put traffic to a halt north and southbound like we did, it causes quite a bit of problems throughout the city.”
Chief McEachern adds, “We’re taking several police officers, not only from Opelika but from surrounding agencies that were responding to assist. We had no idea if we had a hostage situation or if someone had been hurt. And again, the closing down of the interstate, tremendous man hours and personnel just to handle a situation like that.”
The man was charged with filing a false report, and Chief McEachern says more charges could be coming. Chief McEachern also says it is a misdemeanor and could result in up to a year in jail.