Children were never threatened during 23-hour-long standoff, Orlando police say
Convicted felon shot police officer through door
ORLANDO, Fla. – Four children who were held hostage by a convicted felon and then fatally shot were never threatened during a 23-hour-long standoff with local authorities, according to Orlando Police Chief John Mina.
Officials said the incident began around 11:45 p.m. Sunday when a woman called 911 and said that her boyfriend, Gary Lindsey Jr., had beaten her at Westbrook Apartments in Orlando. Mina said officers surrounded the apartment where Lindsey was inside with four children, two of whom were his own.
Lindsey shot Orlando police Officer Kevin Valencia through the front door. Officials said that Valencia is in critical condition and unable to speak.
“The next several days will be very telling in his condition,” Mina said Tuesday afternoon.
One officer returned fire at Lindsey, Mina said. That officer's name has not been released.
Authorities spent the next several hours communicating with Lindsey through his Wi-Fi-only cellphone, through social media and through friends and family members.
Mina said that the children were not heard in the background during the phone calls and Lindsey did not make any threats to harm them.
“There was never any indication of an imminent threat to any of the children,” Mina said.
By 6 p.m. Monday, the Orange County Sheriff's Office SWAT team relieved Orlando Police Department officers who had spent hours at the scene. The decision was made at 8:30 p.m. to breach several windows in order to be able to better communicate with Lindsey and that's when an officer saw what appeared to be a dead child.
"At that point, we made the decision to save the rest of the children and do an explosive breach on the apartment to make entry," Mina said.
When authorities entered at about 9 p.m., they found two children dead in one bedroom, two children dead in another bedroom and Lindsey dead in a closet with a gun by his side.
A family attorney identified the children on Tuesday as Irayan Pluth, 12; Lillia Pluth, 10; Aidan Lindsey, 6; and Dove Lindsey, 1.
It's unclear at what point during the standoff the children were killed. Mina said the goal during the nearly daylong hostage situation was to reach a peaceful resolution.
“In any hostage situation, one of our biggest concerns, especially in a domestic violence incident, is that our actions could provoke the suspect to do harm to others," Mina said, adding that the officers tried to gather as much information as possible during the ordeal.
Lindsey, a convicted felon who was scheduled to be on probation until 2045, had two rifles, two shotguns and a handgun in his possession during the standoff, according to authorities. Because he was a convicted felon on probation, he was not legally allowed to have the firearms, which he inherited when his father died.
A deposition from 2008 states that, during an argument with an ex-girlfriend, Lindsey burned down a home in Deltona. He received a sentence of 30 years of supervision from a judge in the case.
Over the next 10 years, records show Lindsey was arrested four times for violating his probation, prior to the tragedy this week.
Mina said that, moving forward, the department is focusing on healing.
"For us, our No. 1 priority now is the health and well-being of Kevin Valencia, the health and well-being of our officers that had to go in there and see such a tragedy. In any type of incident, there's always a review to see if we can learn from the incident," Mina said.
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