“We could hear the child inside, he was crying, he was wanting to get out.”
COVERAGE OF LIBERTY TWP. STANDOFF
The incident started at 11:27 p.m. Friday when the boy’s mother called police saying a man was in her apartment at the Springs at Liberty Twp. with a gun and demanding money, Jones said.
Neighbors told this media outlet that the boy’s mother ran from townhouse to townhouse, banging on doors and seeking safety. The woman was crying, barefooted and with pajamas only, one neighbor described. The woman’s blood was still visible on at least two of those doors on Sunday.
Police made cellphone contact with Gazaway at 11:38 p.m. and shots were reported fired inside the apartment at 11:51 p.m., leading police to evacuate surrounding apartments in the complex.
Shots were again fired from inside the apartment between 4 and 6 a.m. Saturday with Gazaway using the boy as a shield, according to police. Officers breached the front door around 6 a.m. to communicate with Gazaway and shots were fired at a police robot around 7:47 a.m.
At 9 a.m., police made visual confirmation that Gazaway was using the child as a shield with a gun to his neck and at 11 a.m. he took the boy to the apartment’s garage and got in a car, where he fired shots at 12:52 p.m., Jones said.
Negotiations continued from 1 p.m. Saturday through the night until Gazaway surrendered without incident.
Jones said the boy’s mother knew Gazaway “a couple of weeks” and was a friend of the family.
He said he could not yet disclose the type of firearm that was fired at police or the extent of damage it caused to police equipment. Jones said more than two dozens shots were fired by the suspect in the incident. Police did not fire a shot, Jones added.
This isn’t Gazaway’s first run-in with the law. State records show he served more than four years in prison for felonious assault and a gun specification out of Hamilton County, and was released from prison in July and remained under the supervision of Ohio’s Adult Parole Authority, according to our news partner, WCPO-TV.
The suspect using a child as a human shield “definitely changes the dynamics of the standoff,” said Hamilton Police Chief Craig Bucheit.
“Having a hostage, especially a hostage of this age and a child, I can tell you that I know that probably without exception every officer, every operator that was out there is a parent and a lot of those operators have their own children at home about this age,” Bucheit said. “Everybody knew just what was at stake, how important this was, and I think this really helped keep these folks going through some very difficult, long hours, very difficult conditions.”
Bucheit credits negotiators for doing “an outstanding job” of talking to Gazaway, keeping him calm and building a rapport with him, even as he fluctuated between wanting to let the boy go and standing his ground against police.
“Over enough time, I think that finally wore him down and he was out of options,” Bucheit said. “He was in the car, the car was running, it was getting low on gas … (temperatures) are in the single digits … and eventually he just wore down and gave up.”
West Chester Police Chief Joel Herzog said the standoff was one of the most difficult and challenging that he had been involved with and even been aware of in his 27 years in law enforcement.
He said it was “very valuable” that the various departments all were on the same radio system because it allowed for “seamless” communication between the three law enforcement agencies.
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The boy was sent to a hospital for observation. His mother told WCPO she was “happy that this turned out right.”
“He’s a brave little boy,” she said. “All he wanted to do at the end of the day was protect mommy. I think he was more concerned about me being safe versus him being stuck with the bad guy.”
The suspect was like family, the mother of the boy told WCPO, but he acted strangely and aggressively before the standoff.
“Mommy won’t be dating for a while or bringing any guys around my son,” she said.