HARVEY, Ill. (WLS) --The hostage situation in south suburban Harvey came to an end after an almost 21-hour standoff when two men were taken into police custody on Wednesday morning. No one was injured.
The final four hostages - two girls, ages 6 and 12, and two adult women - were escorted from the home in the 14700-block of Seely Avenue by heavily armed SWAT team members just minutes before the suspects were arrested at 9:30 a.m.
"It was an incredibly volatile situation, at one point, threatening to execute all the children," said Cook County sheriff Tom Dart.
Dart said Wednesday night that when negotiations came to a standstill, it was time to move in. They arrested two men who were on parole, and both have long rap sheets dating back to the 1990s. They were holding two women, and six children - ages 1-12 - hostage inside a Harvey home.
"The kids were in terror, you can tell that, but they didn't look in any way that they were harmed whatsoever," said Dart.
"We'd been giving them opportunities for the last almost 24-hours to come out. We assured them no one was going to hurt them and tried everything conceivable to get them to understand that we weren't going away. This was going to be resolved. They nonetheless were not willing to come out," Sheriff Dart said. "At this juncture, it was the prudent thing to do to enter the house and to secure the hostages, to make sure they weren't being harmed. Things were getting more on the dicey side."
That's when police moved in the heavy equipment, knocked out the windows and doors to the back of the house, and sent in at least two dozen SWAT team members in full uniform.
"Once we had the first floor occupied we were then able to rapidly move up to the second floor and enter the room where the hostages were being held and we were able to get everybody down and secured and get the hostages out," Sheriff Dart said.
The standoff started at 1 p.m. Tuesday when officers responded to call of a burglary in progress. Police said officers exchanged gunfire with the suspects, who then barricaded themselves inside the home.
Eight people, six children and two adults, were inside. The children, who ranged in age from 1 to 12 years old, were released first. Four boys - two 1-year-olds, a 2-year-old, and an 11-year-old - were released Tuesday. The two girls, 6 and 12, and two women were released Wednesday morning.
One of the women, a nurse, had escorted the boys out on Tuesday. She had been in the home to care for the 2-year-old boy, who has health issues, when the suspects barricaded themselves inside. Officials have been calling her a hero throughout the ordeal.
The hostages were not harmed, but were taken to hospitals to be checked out.
During Tuesday's standoff, two Harvey police officers were wounded. The most seriously hurt is Officer Darnell Keel, an 18-year veteran of the force who was shot in the arm. He remains hospitalized and underwent surgery Wednesday morning.
Officials originally released false information that Officer Keel had been sent home Tuesday to mislead the standoff suspects, who may have been watching news reports.
"I'm glad that I was able to the people in the community I've been in all my life, I'm glad I was able to save those children and the victim, and I'm also praying for the suspects too," Keel said.
The second officer was grazed by a bullet, also hit in the arm.
About 200 hundred officers from more than 20 agencies responded to the hostage situation.
"It was a thoughtful approach from beginning to end, and we couldn't get people to go home. There was this desire by everybody to see this through to conclusion," Dart said. The officers worked in rotating shifts of four to five hours.
"There was an incredible group of professionals who were very passionate about making sure this was done in the proper way," Dart said.
Harvey police say they will release more information once the suspects are charged.
The first day of school was canceled at Rosa Parks Middle School, which is located one block from the scene.