A standoff situation between members of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and three suspects in a Lakeland McDonald’s has come to an end and the suspects are now in police custody. The police have also discovered that the person who had messaged them claiming to be a hostage inside of the McDonald’s had been lying.
The standoff began in Hillsborough County when the police were chasing the suspects of an armed carjacking this morning. The suspects fled out across county lines and exited in Lakeland where their vehicle crashed close to the McDonald’s and they abandoned it. The men tried to pull off another carjacking in the parking lot of the Lakeland McDonald’s but were unsuccessful and went inside the fast food restaurant instead. The employees and several others were able to flee because the men came in through the drive thru window and were spotted early. As the Inquisitr reported earlier though, when the police arrived they operated on the belief that there were hostages inside of the building.
The Florida Highway Patrol shut down Interstate 4 exit ramp to County Line Road as the authorities carried out their investigation of the possible hostage situation at the McDonald’s beginning about 8:11 a.m. this morning. Fortunately, one of the three suspects in the case surrendered himself almost as soon as the police arrived and came out with the persons fleeing the restaurant.
One of the reasons why the belief that a hostage situation was ongoing existed was the fact that someone had contacted the department through social media saying that they were being held hostage inside of the Lakeland McDonald’s. The man used social media and claimed that he was trying to tell his family that he was hiding inside.
However, this was later proven to be a hoax. It took almost an hour before deputies found out that the person was not inside of the restaurant and in fact was not involved in the standoff with the carjackers at all. According to KHOU, the person who made the false postings was eventually located and was being questioned by the authorities. Sheriff Gee relayed the details of the hoax to the media.
“He had nothing to do with it. He apparently just took an opportunity on social media, which took a lot of time of day, and it put some lives in danger, cost the taxpayers a ton of money, and it caused you to stand out here a lot longer than you would have had to.”
Even as they were forced to plan for a hostage situation, the authorities attempted to account for all the cars in the area and clear the building. Over 100 law enforcement authorities from several different agencies had surrounded the building, including a SWAT team.
Once it was established that any tales of a hostage was a hoax, the deputies entered the McDonald’s and later reported that the suspects had decided to hide in the roof, crawling between the drop ceiling tiles and the roof. Fox 13 News reported that another suspect surrendered when deputies lifted the tiles, coming down peacefully. The third suspect would not be dislodged, however, until a flash bang device was sent into his hiding place.
In his press release after the situation, Sheriff Gee stated that two guns were recovered during the altercation with the three carjackers. One of the guns had been inside of the stolen, wrecked car which had been abandoned while the other one was recovered from inside the McDonald’s.
Sheriff Gee also said that charges against the trio were pending but he was not able to say exactly what those charges would be.
[Featured Image by Florian Launette/AP Images]