The Latest: Missouri suspects led police on chase

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Posted: Feb 05, 2016 11:46 AM
The Latest: Missouri suspects led police on chase

MILTON, Fla. (AP) — The Latest on Missouri couple suspected in a multistate crime spree. All times local:

10:40 a.m.

Officials say a chase that led to a standoff with a couple suspected in a multistate crime spree started with a report of a robbery at a Famous Footwear store in Pensacola, Florida.

Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said at a Friday news conference that a call at 7:56 p.m. Thursday alerted authorities to the armed robbery. Officers spotted the couple near Pensacola Beach, before they headed east, eventually ending up on Interstate 10 before cutting back toward Pensacola. Morgan says the couple held a family hostage in their Pensacola home before fleeing in the family truck.

Morgan says deputies spotted Blake Fitzgerald and Brittany Nicole Harper in the truck, and they went into a neighborhood and had a 15-minute standoff with authorities. Morgan says officers engaged in gunfire with the couple as they tried to leave the truck and enter a home.

Fitzgerald was killed and Harper wounded.

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10:40 a.m.

A law enforcement official says he doesn't know why a Missouri couple suspected in a multistate crime spree headed to Florida, where they had a standoff with officers.

Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said Friday that he knows of no ties Blake Fitzgerald and Brittany Nicole Harper had to the Pensacola area. He says he heard they were heading to Panama City to get married. They had been suspected in a series of robberies and abductions in Alabama and Georgia.

Authorities say officers engaged in gunfire with the couple in Florida. Fitzgerald ended up dead. Harper was wounded in the leg.

Morgan says Harper is under armed guard at a hospital and faces multiple charges including home invasion, robbery, false imprisonment and grand theft auto. No court appearances are scheduled for her yet.

No deputies were injured. Morgan says six are on administrative leave pending a standard investigation.

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7:25 a.m.

A sheriff's sergeant in the Florida Panhandle says the search for a Missouri couple suspected in a series of robberies and abductions in Alabama and Georgia ended in a shootout that killed the man and left the woman wounded.

Santa Rosa County sheriff's Sgt. Rich Aloy says there was a shootout early Friday between the suspects and law enforcement officers that left Blake Fitzgerald dead and Brittany Nicole Harper wounded.

Aloy said his agency learned around 12:30 a.m. that the suspects were heading into Santa Rosa County, so their officers joined the search, which ended on a road. Aloy says that because a shooting took place, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was taking over the investigation. Aloy did not give any other details of the chase and shooting.

Authorities have linked Fitzgerald and Harper to a series of crimes in Alabama and Georgia, saying the offenses fit a similar pattern: People are robbed, kidnapped and let go unharmed, usually after a vehicle is stolen.

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This item has been corrected to give the proper spelling of Rich Aloy's last name.

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5:55 a.m.

Authorities in the Florida Panhandle say a Missouri couple suspected in a series of robberies and abductions in Alabama and Georgia have been found and the man is dead and the woman taken into custody early Friday.

A statement from the Escambia County Sheriff's Office says Blake Fitzgerald died and Brittany Nicole Harper was wounded and taken to a local hospital.

No other details were immediately released, but local news outlets report that shots were fired after a chase.

Authorities have linked the couple to a series of crimes in Alabama and Georgia, saying the offenses fit a similar pattern: People are robbed, kidnapped and let go unharmed, usually after a vehicle is stolen.

U.S. Marshals spokesman Martin Keely says the couple is also suspected in two Florida robberies in Walnut Hills and Destin on Wednesday.