Florida bank stand-off ends with hostages rescued

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Map of Florida highlighting Osceola County

Two suspected robbers west of Kissimmee, Florida released one hostage after negotiating with sheriffs' deputies. Other hostages remain inside, authorities say. Police later shot and killed one bank robber and arrested a second on after a 10 hour stand-off with police. "A sniper shot the male suspect while the female was in custody", said Osceola County Sheriff Bob Hansell. Four hostages were not injured.

The suspects had escaped the Mercantile Bank, a mile west of Walt Disney World's Wide World of Sports, with one hostage after authorities blasted through the rear door using an explosive device. But police soon cornered them in their getaway car, authorities said. The male suspect then "used the hostage again as a shield to get into another vehicle," Hansell said. "He tried to leave again and at that point he was taken down by one of our snipers."

Deputies had been using cell phones to negotiate with the suspects, who were wearing masks, wigs and coats.

Around 7:15 p.m. EST, police blasted through the bank's rear door. The suspects escaped with a female hostage and drove away in a bank employee's car, but they traveled less than a mile before street barricades stopped them. Shots were fired at deputies but nobody was hurt, police said.

The suspects had been holed up in the bank since Tuesday morning. The first hostage was released when the robbers panicked when deputies arrived so quickly after the robbery, said sheriff's spokeswoman Twis Lizasuain. The second was freed in exchange for cigarettes and the third after deputies agreed to back their vehicles a few feet farther away from the bank, Lizasuain said.

Police did not release the names the hostages, but the suspects were identified Wednesday as a 50-year-old male, Gaetano Alessandrello, and a 26-year old woman, Amanda Lynn Moeller. It was not immediately clear whether the suspects ever got any money. Tourists near the bank, in hotels, were confined to them for hours as police asked them "to stay indoors". The hostages said they were treated well and were not threatened with violence, Hansell said.

The same bank was robbed just 2 months ago on November 16, 2005. It is unclear if the two robberies are connected or not.