BY M. Spencer Green and Jason Keyser
HARVEY, Ill. — About two dozen heavily armed law enforcement officers stormed a home in Chicago's southern suburbs Wednesday to free four remaining hostages and capture two suspects, ending a 20-hour standoff that police say began as a robbery attempt.
Two women and two children were freed midmorning from the home in the small city of Harvey without a shot being fired, said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.
Footage shot by a TV news helicopter showed officers with body armor, shields and rifles rushing toward the home from two directions and sweeping in through the front door as other officers aimed weapons and took cover near two large armored vehicles parked out front.
Officers ran from the house with the remaining hostages, leading them by hand to an armored truck, then brought out two men in handcuffs.
Dart had no immediate information about the suspects. Officers found spent bullet casings in the house, but were still looking for the suspects' weapons.
The standoff began at 12:45 p.m. Tuesday when police in Harvey responded to a neighbor's report of a possible burglary at the home. Two officers were wounded in an initial exchange of gunfire, and the two suspects barricaded themselves inside the home with eight captives. Four children among them were freed overnight after hours of talks. No one else was injured throughout the ordeal.
Dart said negotiators were in "constant contact" with the hostage-takers throughout the night but that the talks reached a stalemate late morning and a decision was made to storm the house. Negotiators still had the suspects on the phone as the officers used a battering ram on an armored truck to break down the door and sweep in.
"We'd been giving them opportunities for the last almost 24 hours to come out," he said, adding that hostage specialists concluded it was the right time to act.
Officers knew the hostages were on the second floor and quickly marched up the stairs after securing the ground floor.
"We were able to take everyone down without any injuries to anybody and without shots being fired," said Dart, still wearing a protective vest while briefing reporters moments after the raid.
The operation lasted just minutes.
Four of the captive children were from one family and the other two were relatives, according to Dart, adding that nothing indicated any relationship between them and the hostage-takers.
Dart said none was hurt but they showed signs of an emotional toll. Some of the children were just 1 year old.
"The hostages were hysterical," Dart told The Associated Press. "They were screaming and unable to talk."
One of the adult women held captive is a nurse who was at the home to care for a 2-year-old girl who has a "health issue," Dart said. He refused to elaborate.
Officers including a SWAT team surrounded the home quickly Tuesday as events began to unfold, and the entire block of homes was evacuated, affecting about 100 residents, said Harvey spokesman Sean Howard. A nearby middle school was evacuated, but only staff members were in the building. On Wednesday, an elementary and grade school in the area remained closed.
The first children to be freed were released one-by-one throughout the night. A hostage-taker placed one on the front porch, and a member of the SWAT team retrieved the child.
Officer Darnell Keel, an 18-year veteran of the police force, will undergo surgery for a broken arm, Howard said. A second officer suffered a graze wound to an arm.
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Copyright 2014 The Associated Press