A Missouri couple wanted for allegedly committing a string of crimes across several states were caught in the Florida panhandle area on early Friday morning, but the capture ended tragically after an exchange of gunfire.
AL.com reports that the Blake Fitzgerald, 31, of Joplin was killed after exchanging gunfire with police in Santa Rosa County, just before 1:30 a.m. The gunfire started after a car chase that led to a foot chase near Garcon Point and Saragon Lane. The pursuit initially began close to the Pensacola International Airport in Escambia County, several hours prior to the shootout. After authorities began following the suspects, the chase continued on as they drove across Pensacola Bay on I-10.
Brittany Harper, 31, Fitzgerald’s girlfriend, was wounded in the legs after the shootout. She was taken to a local hospital and is expected to survive.
Both Fitzgerald and Harper made national news on Sunday evening after allegedly robbing a hotel in Alabama and kidnapping a hotel clerk. Their crime spree continued on to an Alabama McDonald’s, where Fitzgerald attempted to rob a female restaurant manager, but other employees thwarted his plans.
Within 15 minutes of the attempted McDonald’s robbery, Fitzgerald walked into an open garage of a Vestavia Hills, Alabama, home, where he stole a silver 2010 Ford Edge and kidnapped a woman inside the home. For reasons unknown, the couple released the hotel clerk prior shortly before kidnapping the woman and then dropped her off as well at a local hospital.
On Wednesday, the couple arrived in Georgia in the stolen Ford Edge, where they reportedly robbed a gas station in Perry. They kidnapped an employee of the gas station but released him a few hours later.
Within the next day or so, they drove to Florida, where Fitzgerald allegedly robbed a store in Destin, holding the store clerk at gunpoint while demanding money. Harper, who walked in the store with Fitzgerald, hovered in the back but left the store right before the robbery.
The “Bonnie and Clyde” couple headed towards Escambia County afterwards, where Fitzgerald, described as a white, bald male in an American Eagle sweatshirt, robbed a local Piggly Wiggly store. Escambia County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Amber Southard stated that the robber got into a black pickup truck after robbing the store, where a white woman wearing a hooded sweatshirt was waiting in the driver seat.
The string of unlawful acts in the South wasn’t the first of the couple’s crime spree. FOX News reports that Fitzgerald and Harper allegedly stole a Cadillac from a used car lot in Missouri on January 26. When a Cape Girardeau Country officer tried to pull the car over, Fitzgerald sped away until the officer lost sight of them.
Shortly after, the couple reportedly broke into a home in the Cape Girardeau area and stole a red Chevrolet Trailblazer. Authorities believe that Fitzgerald drove the Trailblazer to Alabama. According to the kidnapped hotel clerk, Fitzgerald and Harper drove to a Home Depot parking lot in Alabama, where a red SUV was parked, and began rummaging inside the vehicle.
The couple is also accused of breaking into a physician’s home in Missouri, where they stole several guns before leaving the area.
Blake Fitzgerald had a long rap sheet, filled with assault, burglary, and vehicle tampering. Aside from a traffic citation, Brittany Harper’s criminal record is clean. The story on the Missouri couple and additional details on Fitzgerald’s death is still developing.
[Photo by the Vestavia Hills Police Department]