MILTON, Fla. (AP) - The Latest on Missouri couple suspected in a multistate crime spree. All times local:
Officials say a chase that led to a standoff with a couple suspected in a multistate crime spree started with a report of a robbery at a Famous Footwear store in Pensacola, Florida.
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said at a Friday news conference that a call at 7:56 p.m. Thursday alerted authorities to the armed robbery. Officers spotted the couple near Pensacola Beach, before they headed east, eventually ending up on Interstate 10 before cutting back toward Pensacola. Morgan says the couple held a family hostage in their Pensacola home before fleeing in the family truck.
Morgan says deputies spotted Blake Fitzgerald and Brittany Nicole Harper in the truck, and they went into a neighborhood and had a 15-minute standoff with authorities. Morgan says officers engaged in gunfire with the couple as they tried to leave the truck and enter a home.
Fitzgerald was killed and Harper wounded.
A law enforcement official says he doesn't know why a Missouri couple suspected in a multistate crime spree headed to Florida, where they had a standoff with officers.
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said Friday that he knows of no ties Blake Fitzgerald and Brittany Nicole Harper had to the Pensacola area. He says he heard they were heading to Panama City to get married. They had been suspected in a series of robberies and abductions in Alabama and Georgia.
Authorities say officers engaged in gunfire with the couple in Florida. Fitzgerald ended up dead. Harper was wounded in the leg.
Morgan says Harper is under armed guard at a hospital and faces multiple charges including home invasion, robbery, false imprisonment and grand theft auto. No court appearances are scheduled for her yet.
No deputies were injured. Morgan says six are on administrative leave pending a standard investigation.
A sheriff's sergeant in the Florida Panhandle says the search for a Missouri couple suspected in a series of robberies and abductions in Alabama and Georgia ended in a shootout that killed the man and left the woman wounded.
Santa Rosa County sheriff's Sgt. Rich Aloy says there was a shootout early Friday between the suspects and law enforcement officers that left Blake Fitzgerald dead and Brittany Nicole Harper wounded.
Aloy said his agency learned around 12:30 a.m. that the suspects were heading into Santa Rosa County, so their officers joined the search, which ended on a road. Aloy says that because a shooting took place, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was taking over the investigation. Aloy did not give any other details of the chase and shooting.
Authorities have linked Fitzgerald and Harper to a series of crimes in Alabama and Georgia, saying the offenses fit a similar pattern: People are robbed, kidnapped and let go unharmed, usually after a vehicle is stolen.
This item has been corrected to give the proper spelling of Rich Aloy's last name.
Authorities in the Florida Panhandle say a Missouri couple suspected in a series of robberies and abductions in Alabama and Georgia have been found and the man is dead and the woman taken into custody early Friday.
A statement from the Escambia County Sheriff's Office says Blake Fitzgerald died and Brittany Nicole Harper was wounded and taken to a local hospital.
No other details were immediately released, but local news outlets report that shots were fired after a chase.
Authorities have linked the couple to a series of crimes in Alabama and Georgia, saying the offenses fit a similar pattern: People are robbed, kidnapped and let go unharmed, usually after a vehicle is stolen.
U.S. Marshals spokesman Martin Keely says the couple is also suspected in two Florida robberies in Walnut Hills and Destin on Wednesday.
Law enforcement officers have linked Blake Fitzgerald and Brittany Nicole Harper to a spree of abductions and robberies in Missouri, Alabama, Georgia and Florida. A timeline of the crimes, from interviews with law enforcement by The Associated Press and its member news organizations and statements by local police and the U.S. Marshals Service:
The couple is suspected of stealing guns from a house in their hometown, Joplin in southwest Missouri. Police Cpl. Chuck Niess says police had hoped to speak with them about the robbery, but "they obviously left the area."
Early Sunday morning, the pair enters the Microtel Inn and Suites in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, saying they'd run out of gas and were trying to get to Panama City, Florida, night clerk Kyle Dease tells Al.com. Moments later, the man pulls a semiautomatic pistol and forces Dease into a car and the three head toward Birmingham, he recounts later. Fitzgerald and Harper are charged with kidnapping, theft and robbery, Tuscaloosa police Lt. Kip Hart said.
Later Sunday, the couple tries to rob a McDonald's manager outside her restaurant in the suburb of Hoover, demanding money and her car keys, police say. The manager screams and the couple flees, Hoover police Capt. Gregg Rector says. Rector said the hotel clerk was still being held in the backseat during that robbery attempt but was later released unharmed.
About 15 minutes later, a family in nearby Vestavia Hills is eating breakfast when a man enters the home through an open garage door, saying he's having car trouble, police said. He pulls a gun, demands the family's SUV and forces the woman to get inside, Vestavia Hills police Lt. Kevin York said. The woman is later released unharmed about 10 miles away.
On Monday night, a gunman holds up a young clerk at a Murphy Express station along Interstate 75 in south Georgia, taking money from the safe and cigarettes before forcing the clerk into an SUV, where his female accomplice is waiting, authorities say. The couple drives about 15 miles before releasing the clerk unharmed, Perry police Lt. Ken Ezell said.
On Wednesday, the couple is suspected in two additional robberies in the Florida panhandle - in Walnut Hill, Florida; and in Destin, Florida, U.S. Marshal Martin Keely says in a statement.
The U.S. Marshals announce they are offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to Fitzgerald and Harper's arrest.
Just before 8 p.m. CST, authorities are alerted to an armed robbery at a Famous Footwear store in Pensacola. Police officers and sheriff's deputies begin chasing the couple on at path that leads to Pensacola Beach and roads in and around Pensacola, including a couple of brief stints on Interstate 10.
Late Thursday, a Pensacola family is taken hostage for a short time and their red pickup truck is stolen.
Around 12:16 a.m., deputies spot the pickup truck heading east on I-10. They follow the truck off the interstate and down a rural road. Authorities say they had a standoff with the couple outside a home near Milton and a shootout ensues. Fitzgerald is killed and Harper is wounded and taken into custody.
Later in the morning, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan holds a news conference. He announces that Harper is under armed guard at a Pensacola hospital with injuries to her leg. He says she's in the process of being charged with home invasion robbery, false imprisonment and grand theft auto.
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