Shootout ends hunt for Missouri couple suspected in crime spree

MILTON, Fla. -- The search for a Missouri couple suspected in a series of robberies and abductions across the South ended in a shootout in the Florida Panhandle early Friday that left the man dead and the woman wounded, authorities said.

See Full Article

Blake Fitzgerald died and Brittany Nicole Harper was taken to a local hospital, according to a statement from the Escambia County Sheriff's Office.

Few other details were immediately released, but local news outlets report that the shots were fired after a chase. In online video posted by Pensacola, Florida, station WEAR-TV, a volley of gunshots can be heard amid flashing police lights.

Dozens of police and sheriff's deputies blocked a rural road leading to the site where the couple was found Friday morning.

Santa Rosa County sheriff's Sgt. Rich 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 said that because a shooting took place, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was taking over the investigation. Aloy provided no other details of the chase and shooting.

Aloy also said they are fortunate more people were not hurt. It would have been worse if it happened earlier in the day because there would have a lot of traffic, he said.

Authorities have linked Fitzgerald and Harper to a series of crimes in Alabama and Georgia, saying the offences fit a similar pattern: People are robbed, kidnapped and let go unharmed, usually after a vehicle is stolen.

Before that, police in Joplin, Missouri, had wanted to interview the two about a Jan. 22 break-in there in which guns were stolen from a home. The couple is also suspected in two Florida robberies in Walnut Hill and Destin on Wednesday, U.S. Marshals spokesman Martin Keely said.

Calling them a "modern-day Bonnie and Clyde," the U.S. Marshals announced Thursday that they were offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to their arrest.

Fitzgerald and Harper have been charged with robbing and abducting a hotel clerk in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and taking his car to the Birmingham area. The clerk was let go in the upscale suburb of Vestavia Hills, where a woman was briefly abducted by two people who stole her family's Ford Edge SUV.

On Monday night, a gunman held 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 waited, authorities said. The couple drove about 15 miles before releasing the clerk unharmed, Perry police Lt. Ken Ezell said.

The hotel clerk who was abducted in Alabama, Kyle Dease, told Al.com that he spoke with his captors during the nearly two hours he was held on the drive from Tuscaloosa to metro Birmingham. Dease said they told him they hoped to make it to Florida to get married and start a new life together.

The man also told Dease he did not plan on going back to prison.

Missouri records show that in 2013, Fitzgerald and an accomplice were charged with burglarizing a Joplin woman at knifepoint in her home and making off with her purse, jewelry, electronics and a car. Fitzgerald entered an Alford plea -- not admitting guilt but acknowledging the prosecutors had sufficient evidence for a conviction -- and was sentenced in 2014 to a suspended seven-year prison term.

Fitzgerald also was sentenced in southwestern Missouri's Jasper County to a simultaneous 120-day term in a drunken-driving case. Last July, Fitzgerald pleaded guilty in a Missouri assault case and was sentenced to a suspended five-year prison term.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • What Trump said about Virginia protesters, a fact check

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK -- U.S. President Donald Trump has defended his response to Saturday's racially charged protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, in a winding, combative exchange with reporters that at times mischaracterized the message and purpose of the event. Source
  • Teen drug overdose deaths in U.S. creep up after years of decline

    World News CBC News
    After years of decline, teen deaths from drug overdoses have inched up, a new U.S. government report shows. The drop in teen deaths had been a rare bright spot in the opioid epidemic that has seen adult overdose deaths surge year after year — fuelled by abuse of prescription painkillers, heroin and newer drugs like fentanyl. Source
  • Sierra Leone prepares for mass funerals after mudslides

    World News CTV News
    FREETOWN, Sierra Leone -- Sierra Leone's government urged family members to come to the capital's overwhelmed mortuary Wednesday to identify their loved one's remains as the country prepared to bury hundreds of mudslide and flood victims. Source
  • Five missing after U.S. Army helicopter goes down off Hawaii

    World News CTV News
    HONOLULU -- U.S. Coast Guard and military crews are searching the ocean off Hawaii for five crewmembers of an Army helicopter that reportedly went down during a training exercise, authorities said Wednesday. Officials at Wheeler Army Airfield near Honolulu reported losing communications around 10 p.m. Source
  • 'I miss her so, so much'; Woman hit, killed by car at Virginia rally mourned [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Mourners will gather in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Wednesday to honour the woman who was killed when a car rammed into a crowd of people protesting a white nationalist rally that descended into violence last weekend. Source
  • Plaque honouring Confederate president Davis removed from Montreal building

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL - A commemorative plaque honouring a former president of the Confederate States of America has been removed from a Hudson's Bay Co. building in downtown Montreal. Spokeswoman Tiffany Bourre told The Canadian Press in an email the plaque of Jefferson Davis, who was president of the Confederate states during the Civil War, was taken down Tuesday evening. Source
  • Donald Trump to rally supporters next Tuesday in Phoenix

    World News Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — President Donald Trump plans to rally supporters in Phoenix next week. Trump’s campaign announced the event Wednesday — a day after the president blamed “both sides” for weekend violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white supremacists and counter-demonstrators. Source
  • Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary named to list of world's most livable cities

    Canada News CTV News
    Three Canadian cities ranked among the top 10 in this year's list of the world's most livable cities, while Melbourne held on to top spot for a seventh year in a row. Analysts at The Economist's Intelligence Unit released the 2017 edition of their Global Liveability Report, which ranks 140 cities based on their quality of life across five broad categories: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure. Source
  • 'I'm over-the-moon happy': Long-lost sisters meet after decades apart

    Canada News CTV News
    Helen Zolna-Abrams waits impatiently at the arrivals section of Montreal’s Trudeau Airport on Tuesday afternoon. She’s wringing her hands and holding a box of tissues. “I can’t wait to touch her, to hold her, to feel her… that she’s real,” she blurts out. Source
  • LeBron James takes swipe at 'so-called president' Donald Trump in wake of Charlottesville unrest

    World News Toronto Sun
    SANDUSKY, Ohio — Along with getting good grades and listening to their parents, LeBron James has encouraged kids in his foundation’s educational program to stand up for their beliefs. On Tuesday night, the superstar gave a lesson in how it’s done. Source