School closed as Harvey hostage standoff continues

Written By BY BRIAN SLODYSKO Staff Reporter Posted: 09/21/2014, 06:24am
Array Law enforcement officers remained at the scene early Wednesday after two armed burglary suspects took several hostages and barricaded themselves inside a home Tuesday afternoon in south suburban Harvey. | Ashlee Rezin/for Sun-Times Media

A police standoff in Harvey continued into the early morning hours Wednesday, as two men remained barricaded inside a home with multiple hostages, including two children, authorities said.

Wednesday morning, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said negotiators remained in constant touch with the suspects inside the home.

“We’re trying to make it clear to the people within the house that no one is going to get hurt,” Dart said.

Harvey Police Chief Denard Eaves announced Rosa Parks Middle School would be closed Wednesday because of the ongoing situation.

Thornton High School will remain open, Eaves said, but students who live in the area near the standoff will not be required to attend.

“We don’t want students coming outside, standing on their bus routes,” Eaves said.

An alternate bus route along 150th Street will be provided for students who would ordinarily be picked up along Sibley in the affected area, Harvey Mayor Eric Kellogg said Wednesday morning. Students will be picked up at 150th and Dixie Highway.

Food and activities will be provided after school until at least 6 p.m., said Thornton prinipal Tony Ratliff, so that students who live in the affected area will have a safe place to stay as the standoff continues.

The situation started Tuesday afternoon, when the two armed burglary suspects shot two police officers and then barricaded themselves inside the home with one woman, another adult and six children.

Over the course of several hours on Tuesday evening, the woman brought out four children, one by one: two 1-year-old boys, a 2-year-old boy and an 11-year-old boy. The children were taken to a local hospital for observation.

Authorities initially thought only two people were being held hostage inside the home on the 14700 block of Seeley. But throughout the day that number was revised upward.

That’s because the men who took the hostages were not forthcoming with hostage negotiators, Harvey spokesman Sean Howard said.

“These numbers change when you depend on criminals to give you information,” he said. “As these victims have come out, an 11-year-old [released hostage] was able to articulate what was going on at the scene.”

While Howard said two children and two adults were still being held hostage by the gunmen, a spokeswoman for Dart would confirm only that two children were being held hostage and that four adults were inside the home.

Hostage negotiations were being conducted by the Illinois State Police and Dart’s office. More than 20 other law enforcement agencies have been involved in the effort. But Harvey officials insist they are still in control of the situation.

Earlier Tuesday, a consortium of south suburban law enforcement officers descended on Harvey, where they were seen gearing up in fatigues, with body armor and assault-style weapons. An armored vehicle patrolled the alleyways near the home.

Officials identified the most severely wounded officer as Darnell Keel, an 18-year veteran of the force, who heads up the department’s sexual assault unit.

“He’s doing fine and in good spirits, and he said he wished he could get back out there and help his teammates,” Howard said. “He’s a man of faith thanking God that it was just his arm and not something else.”

Keel’s arm was broken by a gunman’s bullet, but he was treated at Christ Hospital and released. Another officer was grazed by a bullet. He was treated at the scene.

“Thank God that our officer is not injured more seriously than he was,” Harvey Police Chief Denard Eaves said. “Our main concern right now is the individuals inside the home. That’s what were focusing on right now: their safety.”

The incident started when a Harvey Police officer was responding to a call of a burglary in progress at a home about 12:50 p.m., Howard said.

Keel “saw a subject with a gun, there was an exchange of gunfire, and [Keel] was shot,” Howard said. After the suspect shot the officer, he ran into a nearby home, where he barricaded himself.

Officers from nearby Phoenix arrived on the scene shortly after Keel was wounded and dragged him to safety, Howard said.

Corey Campbell, who lives nearby, said he was just waking up when he heard gunfire.

“I woke up and heard about six shots, tires screeching, and I just heard some yelling,” Campbell said. “Next thing I know, we come out and see police everywhere.”

Contributing: Luke Wilusz, Ashlee Rezin


Twitter: @BrianSlodysko

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