US community reeling after four children slain in suspected murder-suicide
A family in the US has been ripped apart after a father killed his two children and their two half siblings in a suspected murder-suicide after a bloody 20-hour standoff with police.
A photograph of a smiling Iraya, 12, Lilia, 10, Aidan, 6, and Dove, 1 – all in a warm embrace - was shared online overnight as the children’s mother and family struggled to comprehend the night of horror that was unleashed at an Orlando apartment building.
It was around 11.45pm on Sunday, US time, when a woman fled her unit to a nearby restaurant to phone Orlando Police. She was reporting a domestic incident, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
The woman, who the media outlet did not name, claimed she had been “punched and grabbed” by a man as they argued. The man would be identified as Gary Wayne Lindsey Jr – a convicted criminal out on probation and the woman’s ex-boyfriend and father to two of her four children.
It would be Lindsey Jr who would spark the 20-hour hostage situation involving the children and a brief shootout with police when he opened fire through the apartment door as they attempted to arrest him.
One officer, Kevin Valencia, took a bullet to the face and was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Centre. He is in a critical condition but expected to survive.
The shootout prompted authorities to call in the SWAT team and hostage negotiators.
During the siege, ABC News affiliate WFTV9 reported the windows of the apartment appeared broken with no lights coming from inside the unit.
“Our negotiators attempted to make contact with him (Lindsey Jr) several times throughout the night,” Orlando police Chief John Mina told reporters.
“They communicated with him through a variety of methods – we communicated through friends and relatives, we communicated through social media, we communicated through his phone which was challenging at times because it was a Wi-Fi phone and connection was very bad at times.”
It was Lindsey’s patchy phone reception which ultimately brought the standoff to an end at around 9pm on Monday night, US time.
SWAT team members had just breached windows of the apartment to offer Lindsey one of their phones to use. It was at this point that an officer saw the body of one of the children through the window.
“There was never an indication of an imminent threat to the children so we continued to try and talk to him,” Mr Mina said. He said at no stage during the standoff did Lindsey make any threats against the children.
Mr Mina said the SWAT team then made the decision to “save the rest of the children” and deployed gas into the apartment with officers clearing the apartment room by room.
Two of the children were found dead in one bedroom of the unit, while the two other children’s bodies were found in the second bedroom all from apparent gunshot wounds.
Lindsey’s body was found alone in a closet with self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
Five guns, two rifles, two shotguns and a handgun, were found in the apartment. The guns are believed to have been left to Lindsey by his late father.
Blue tarpaulins, stretched over broken apartment windows, and bullet hole ridden walls are all that is left of the harrowing scene.
A friend of the children’s mother has set up a crowdfunding page to raise money for the children’s funerals. Close to $30,000 has been raised in just eight hours.
“We are raising money for Ciara who lost her four beautiful children on June 11. Her boyfriend was the father of two of the children and selfishly took the lives of these precious innocent angels and then took his own life,” a post accompanying the fundraising page read.
“These beautiful babies never hurt anyone.”
If you or someone you know are struggling with mental health issues or need more information on suicide prevention, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.