‘It hurts too much’: Hostage situation that left four children dead has Florida neighbourhood reeling
Two of the children found dead in Florida are thought to be the suspect’s; the others are believed to belong to the woman who reported being battered by him; a police officer was also injured
A nearly 24-hour stand-off ended in tragedy late Monday, with the discovery that four children had been killed by a man suspected of shooting a police officer at the west Orlando residential complex.
Authorities identified the gunman as 35-year-old Gary Wayne Lindsey Jnr, a felon who was on probation for arson and other charges.
Lindsey had apparently shot the children – aged 1, 6, 10 and 11 – that he had taken as hostages before taking his own life, Orlando police Chief John Mina said. Residents at the Westbrook Apartments were still reeling on Tuesday morning.
The children’s names have not been released. But two of the children found dead are believed to be Lindsey’s, while the others are believed to belong to the woman who reported being battered by Lindsey.
The stand-off began at about 11.45pm on Sunday after police officers arrived to a report of domestic violence at the Westbrook Apartments, police said.
The woman had fled the second-storey flat to a nearby restaurant on Kirkman Road to call police.
The stand-off at the flat complex at 4932 Eaglesmere Drive, off Kirkman Road near Universal Orlando, forced residents from their homes in the middle of the night early Monday as Swat officers descended on the complex.
Officers tried to arrest Lindsey at the flat when a shootout began. Officer Kevin Valencia was wounded and taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center, where he was in critical condition after surgery but expected to survive, according to Mina.
Mina said that his officers had been in “direct and indirect” contact with Lindsey throughout Monday, with the last indirect contact from 8.30-9pm.
The gunman’s phone had spotty service, and police tried to offer him one of their cellphones. That is when they saw the body of one child and decided to try to rescue the other children.
About 8am Tuesday – roughly eight hours after the stand-off there ended – Orlando police were still controlling access to the apartments. Residents streamed in and out of the checkpoint in their cars, many with children in the back seats.
Jackie Robinson said she had lived in the area for five years. Around this time of the year, the flat complex is packed with children playing on their summer break, she said.
Robinson said she heard how the stand-off ended after getting a text from her grown daughter: “Mommy, the kids are gone.”
“As a mom, my heart is completely broken,” Robinson said. “It hurts too much.”
Jordanna Marttos, 10, walked around the neighbourhood with her dog, Mel, and her mother Delma on Tuesday morning, after the stand-off ended. Jordanna was the first to learn how the stand-off ended when she logged onto the family computer earlier that morning.
“He killed himself and he killed the little kids,” Jordanna said matter of factly.
All the neighbourhood kids walked to the same bus stop every morning, Jordanna said, and she probably knew the children.
Sandi Marti had planned to spend her Tuesday – the two-year anniversary of the massacre that claimed 49 lives at the Pulse nightclub – at the Pulse memorial with her wife, Carry.
Instead, the couple started a memorial of their own. They live across from the complex where the four children were killed. They took balloons and hearts and set them near the flat Tuesday morning.