A nearly 20-hour hostage/barricade situation in a Chicago suburb that began with a home burglary and two officers being shot ended Wednesday morning when about two dozen heavily-armed cops stormed the home to free four remaining hostages and arrest their captors.
Two individuals were taken into police custody when authorities took down a door and entered the home near West 147th Street and Robey Avenue in the south suburb of Harvey. The suspects -- two men -- were found on the first floor. The hostages -- 6-year-old and 11-year-old girls, as well as two adult females aged 37 and 43 -- were recovered on the second floor, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said.
"There had been a lot of tension," Dart said. "Things were changing at different times it just it was the proper time to act. ... We tried everyting conceivable to get them to understand that we weren't going away and that this was going to be resolved."
"We went through the door. Our team went on the first floor, then rapidly went on the second floor where the hostages were being held. We were able to take everyone down without injury. Without shots being fired."
Dart said it was unclear if there was any relationship between the hostages and the suspects.
The release of the final hostages came hours after four other children -- all boys -- were released throughout Tuesday evening. One sick child was released at around 6:30 p.m. and another was released about 30 minutes. A 1-year-old child was released at around 7:45 p.m. A fourth child, the 1-year-old's twin, was released at around 10:30 p.m.
"They haven’t been harmed," Dart said of the hostages, "but they’re very, very traumatized."
Police initially believed that five children were being held hostage, but after speaking with an 11-year-old child that was released, they learned a sixth child was also taken. One of the adult females was a nurse, according to police.
"I was scared. I thought she was going to get killed. Once I saw she was OK, I was relived," said Zion Spears, a friend of the 11-year-old hostage.
Thomas West's aunt was the adult hostage in the home. He spoke to NBC 5 after visiting her at Ingalls Hospital.
"She said it was an ugly sight inside. She said all she did was fall in line and did what was told. That's the way she was able to come out alive," West said. "She said at one point, she didn't even care about living no more. Just wanted to get thekids out. It was all about the kids and making sure they safe."
West said his aunt helped get the children out one-by-one, but each time she made the trip out of the home to release a child to safety, she feared the gunman would shoot her.
"She's stunned. She still look like she's going through it right now. She still seems like she's a hostage right now," West said.
All eight of the hostages were checked out and released from the hospital.
A neighbor who lives across the street from the house is also happy the ordeal is over.
"It was like being held hostage also. The dog wants to go outside, can't go out. Police everywhere, laying on the ground, in the back yard," said the woman, who refused to give her name.
Harvey town spokesman Sean Howard said the entire incident began at about 12:48 p.m. Tuesday when a 911 call was placed about a burglary in progress. The first-responding officer saw the burglary under way and responded, Howard said. Gunfire was exchanged and the officer was shot in the arm.
Officer Darnell Keel, an 18-year veteran of the force, was scheduled for a Wednesday morning surgery. The second officer suffered a graze wound and was treated on the scene.
"He's a man of faith and that's where his thoughts are right now," Howard said. "He's just thanking God that it's the arm, and not something more serious."
The suspects took the hostages into the home as police began to arrive. Police officers from 22 law enforcement agencies responded to the barricade situation.
"We thank God that our officer was not injured more seriously than he was, and our major concern right now are the individuals inside the home, that's what we're focusing on right now, their safety," Harvey Police Chief Denard Eaves said.
"We're just asking for a safe recovery of all the family and that no one will be hurt in this incident," an unidentified family member of the hostages told reporters.
Hostage negotiators were put in place and talked to the captors through an open window.
Parks Middle School was locked down at the start of the situation but later cleared. Classes were cancelled Wednesday as the standoff continued. Students at nearby Thornton Township High School were excused from class if they were affected by the situation, administrators said.
Around 100 residents in the area were told not to leave their homes.