Armed Prisoners Hold Hostages For Seven Hours In Hospital
DELAND, Fla. (AP) _ Two men facing murder charges escaped from guards with the help of a woman who gave them a gun, then held 41 people hostage in a hospital ward for seven hours before surrendering today, police said.
″No one was injured, thank God,″ Volusia County Sheriff Edwin Duff said at the end of the ordeal that began Wednesday afternoon. ″We finally convinced them that they weren’t going to be hurt or abused or anything like that.″
The two men, identified by county jail Sgt. John Kriscrunas as Roy Swafford, 36, of Nashville, Tenn., and Michael Anderson, 22, of Newport, R.I., overpowered a guard returning them from a court appearance, police said.
They wrestled a gun from a second guard and fled inside the 95-bed Fish Memorial Hospital.
The hostage situation began when the two prisoners apparently thought they could continue their escape by running through the downtown hospital, said Fish spokeswoman Linda Swartz. Instead, police cordoned off the building and the men holed up on the third floor, taking visitors, nursing staff and mostly elderly patients hostage on a 30-bed ward.
They surrendered at 12:25 a.m. today, Ms. Swartz said. ″Everyone on the patient unit is fine. It’s a blessing.″
No one was individually threatened during the ordeal, said Duff and Ms. Swartz. Before negotiations began, 24 patients, seven nursing support staff and eight to 10 visitors were held hostage, Ms. Swartz said.
During negotiations, the prisoners released some hostages and allowed normal patient care to continue, she said. ″They have been more than gracious,″ she said before the surrender.
Duff said the escape was planned. An unidentified woman handed Swafford and Anderson a second gun before they reached the hospital and a car apparently was waiting for them, he said.
The woman ″so far as I know, is still running around,″ he said.
Swafford is charged in the kidnap-murder of an Ormond Beach gas station clerk in 1982. Anderson is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a Daytona Beach man, the Orlando Sentinel reported today.
The chief negotiator, Deland Police Lt. Alan J. Elliott, gave little information about the prisoners’ demands. But he said police granted Anderson a request for a future unsupervised two-hour visit with his fiancee.
During the low-key siege, some patients thought the men were police officers, he said. ″Most of the patients, until about an hour and a half from the conclusion of this thing, weren’t even aware that there was a problem.″
During negotiations, the prisoners threatened to shoot anyone they saw on a street below the hospital, but Elliott said no shots were fired.