Harvey standoff over; hostages rescued, two men in custody
BY MITCH DUDEK AND JON SEIDEL Staff Reporters August 20, 2014 9:37AM
Police enter the house in Harvey Wednesday morning to end a standoff with two burglary suspects that had started Tuesday afternoon. | AP Photo/Courtesy of WLS-TV Chicago)
Updated: August 21, 2014 11:32AM
The gunmen who holed up Tuesday in a south suburban home with eight hostages demanded a car from police negotiators.
Their bargaining chips: the lives of six children and two women.
They planned to tie several child hostages to their bodies like shields, head to the car and make good their escape.
But Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said Wednesday that authorities didn’t entertain the request as a plausible option.
On Wednesday evening, Dart, at times sporting a weary smile, shared details of the nearly 21-hour standoff that had a “happy ending.”
Getting to that point was a “roller coaster” of negotiations, including constant chatter during which the men threatened to execute the children several times, and nerve-wracking stretches of silence with no communication at all. Complicating matters was the fact that the gunmen were relaying their messages through one of the women hostages, Dart said.
The standoff began about 12:50 p.m. Tuesday, when police responding to a burglary in progress call in the 14700 block of South Seeley Avenue exchanged gunfire with two men. Harvey Police Officer Darnell Keel was hit by a bullet that broke his arm. Keel, an 18-year veteran of the force who heads up the department’s sexual assault unit, was hospitalized. Another officer was grazed by a bullet. He was treated at the scene.
Nearly 21 hours later, after the men released four hostages, a police SWAT team rushed the home after an armored car yanked the front door off its hinges and busted out several windows.
The gunmen, hunkered down in a second-floor bedroom with their four remaining hostages — two girls, ages 6 and 12, and the two women — opened fire through the bedroom door. The bullets did not hit any of the officers who broke the door down and they took the men into custody without firing a shot Wednesday morning about 9 a.m.
Minutes after the standoff began, negotiators from Dart’s office set up a line of communication with the gunmen. Law enforcement officers from more than 20 agencies gathered outside the home, some in body armor and carrying assault-style weapons.
Over the course of several hours on Tuesday evening, a woman brought out four children, one by one: two 1-year-old boys, a 2-year-old boy and an 11-year-old boy. The children were taken to a local hospital for observation.
“At no time did anyone indicate that they were harmed while they were in there,” Dart said.
Jean Johnson, who lives down the street, said one of the hostages, a small boy, at first turned around and started knocking on the door to be let back in. “He didn’t understand,” she said.
Another boy, who was older, ran out with his hands up, his body going limp when he reached the SWAT team, she said.
Throughout the night, police negotiators shined lights on the house, sounded sirens and used a bullhorn to encourage the men to surrender. At one point police obtained cigars the gunmen had asked for, but withheld them when it became clear they were not going to exchange a hostage for them.
Dart said negotiators “tried everything conceivable to get them to understand that we weren’t going away.”
Into the morning hours, negotiations produced a mixture of threats, broken promises and continued demands for a car.
Dart said that four of the six children were siblings. One of the two women was an aunt, and the other was a caretaker for the 2-year-old boy who had health problems. Dart said the home’s air conditioning unit had been turned off, and some of the kids inside were “were having a hard time breathing because of the absolute terror they had been through.”
Dart said the gunmen were told they would not be harmed if they surrendered and emphasized to the men that the officers they shot at were not badly injured.
“We had exhausted all the time we probably should to give them to be reasonable,” Dart said. “They were not coming peacefully . . . that wasn’t part of their plan.”
Both men were on parole. One had a criminal background dating back to 1992 with six prison sentences in Illinois, Dart said. The other man’s criminal history dated back to 1990, with five prison sentences in Illinois, he said.
Both men were in the custody of Harvey Police late Wednesday. Neither had been charged.
Contributing: Bryan Slodysko, Ashlee Rezin, Luke Wilusz