Photo courtesy of Hoover Police Department
Fitzgerald and Harper.jpeg
Blake Fitzgerald and Brittany Harper
After Escambia County sheriff’s deputies in Florida began firing at two suspects wanted for crimes in Hoover and Vestavia Hills and several other states this morning, the male suspect used his female accomplice as a human shield before being shot to death, authorities said.
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan confirmed during a press conference this morning that Blake Fitzgerald used Brittany Harper as a shield from gunfire. The sheriff’s office has also confirmed Fitzgerald was pronounced dead on the scene and Harper was injured following a 15-minute standoff between the suspects and officers. Harper was taken to a hospital for treatment and is in custody at this time.
During the press conference, Morgan said he would not specify if the “shooting” was a “shoot-out” where the suspects fired shots as well. No law enforcement members were injured during the incident, according to the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office.
Dispatchers first received a phone call about an armed robbery at a Famous Footwear around 7:56 p.m. Thursday. A vehicle matching witness descriptions was seen around 9:44 p.m., and authorities lost sight of the vehicle in Pensacola.
Around 10:16 p.m., the suspects' vehicle was found in the driveway of a home. The suspects had fled on foot, Morgan said. Around 12:25 a.m., residents reported they were held hostage for roughly a couple of hours, Morgan said, and their red truck was taken.
The truck was seen around 10 minutes later heading east on Interstate 10. The Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office reported that just after 12:30 a.m., Escambia County notified Santa Rosa deputies that Fitzgerald and Harper were heading toward Santa Rosa County.
Santa Rosa deputies joined the pursuit on Interstate 10. The suspects exited the interstate and police formed a perimeter. Outside of a home, an armed standoff ensued, and the suspects refused to surrender, according to authorities. Around 12:52, Escambia County Sheriff's Office units said shots were fired.
"To the best of our knowledge, it was only officers form Escambia County that returned fire," Morgan said.
Authorities plan to keep Harper in Florida until she is tried. She is in the process of being charged with home invasion-robbery, false imprisonment and grand theft auto, Florida State Attorney Bill Ebbins said. Fitzgerald and Harper were linked to crimes in multiple states, authorities say, including an attempted robbery in Hoover and abductions in Vestavia Hills and Tuscaloosa. Harper faces charges in other states as well. Ebbins said he expects the prosecution of Harper to be complex and labor-intensive.
Hoover police obtained warrants for the pair on Tuesday, Feb. 2. Both and Fitzgerald and Harper were charged with first-degree robbery. The charges were filed following the report of an attempted robbery at the McDonald's at 1731 Montgomery Highway in Hoover.
A manager reported she was approached by a man with a handgun Sunday around 7:45 a.m. as she was exiting her car. The suspect demanded cash and the victim’s car keys, according to police. The victim threw her keys on the ground, yelled for help and ran toward the McDonald's.
The suspect and a woman left the area in a blue Volkswagen Jetta with a New Jersey license plate. Police reported that about 15 minutes later, the same suspect in the blue Jetta committed a home-invasion robbery in Vestavia Hills.
Vestavia Hills police obtained warrants for Fitzgerald and Harper on Sunday, Jan. 31. Fitzgerald was charged with first-degree burglary, one count of first-degree kidnapping and one count of first-degree theft of property. Harper faces a first-degree kidnapping and first-degree theft of property charge.
This story was updated at 3:16 p.m. with more details from Escambia County Sheriff's Office.