ORLANDO — During a nearly daylong standoff that ended late Monday with four children dead at a west-Orlando apartment complex, the gunman gave no indication to police negotiators that he planned to harm the kids, police Chief John Mina said Tuesday.
“He never made any threats to the children. In these types of situations, that’s our biggest concern,” Mina said. “We never want to do something that’s going to provoke the suspect.”
Mina said police never specifically heard the children while negotiating with Gary Wayne Lindsey Jr. and don’t know when they were shot to death.
But when SWAT officers breached several windows of the apartment about 8:30 p.m. on Monday, Mina said they saw that at least one child was already dead — so they went in, using gas. Inside, they found the bodies of two children in one bedroom and the two others in another bedroom.
The police chief said Lindsey — a convicted felon on probation, who was prohibited by law from possessing guns — had two rifles, two shotguns and a handgun. Mina said he believed the guns had been left to Lindsey after his father’s death.
Though one officer fired at Lindsey during an initial shootout that left Officer Kevin Valencia critically wounded, Mina said he had no reason to believe any of the children — identified by a representative of their mother as Irayan, 11; Lillia, 10; Aidan, 6; and Dove, 1 — had been injured by friendly fire.
“Based on everything I’ve seen, it was not our bullets that killed those children,” Mina said.
A family friend and attorney, who set up a GoFundMe account for the family on Tuesday, said Irayan was an overachiever in school; Lillia enjoyed playing with her friends and going to Volcano Bay; Aidan loved dinosaurs; and Dove, who was two months shy of her second birthday, was a lively toddler.
Their mother is in a “deep state of shock,” attorney Walter Benenati said.
“Everybody loved these children and the fact that they were lost like this is just unfathomable,” he said.
The standoff began after officers responded about 11:45 p.m. Sunday to a woman who reported being battered by Lindsey at the Westbrook Apartments. The woman had fled the second-story apartment to call police. Officers tried to arrest Lindsey at the apartment when a shootout began.
She lived at the apartment, according to Benenati, and worked as a customer service agent. Lindsey didn’t work and he did not live with her, but he would occasionally stay at her place.
Lindsey, who police said died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, was father to Aidan and Dove.
“Some may question why she ran out of that building, but nobody can know what she was going through, what horror she was feeling,” Benenati said of the mother. “In fairness to her, nobody can imagine taking the life of precious young children, which is what happened here.”
The shootout and hostage situation left the apartment complex bullet-riddled and bloody, and residents were still reeling hours after the standoff ended in tragedy late Monday.
The ground outside of the complex was littered with broken glass and used police munitions. Large tarps covered broken windows. Nearby was a blue see-saw and grill where families and children would spend summer afternoons.
The second-floor landing outside the apartment where the killings happened was covered in debris.
A trail of blood led away from the apartment, pooling near the top of the stairs. The door opposite the apartment was pock-marked with bullet holes. A young couple who emerged from that unit to take their dog on a walk said they knew Lindsey but were too shaken to talk about him.
Miguel Lopez and his wife, Maria, returned to their apartment in the same building Tuesday morning. They hadn’t gotten much sleep since they saw the police officer lying critically injured on the grass outside.
“We hoped at least the kids would make it,” Miguel Lopez said.
Jacob Langston / Orlando Sentinel
Residents at Westbrook Apartments get a first look at their building where a gunman held four children hostage before taking their life and his own, Tuesday, June 12, 2018, in Orlando, Fla.
Residents at Westbrook Apartments get a first look at their building where a gunman held four children hostage before taking their life and his own, Tuesday, June 12, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. (Jacob Langston / Orlando Sentinel)
Jackie Robinson said she’s lived in the area for five years. Around this time of the year, the apartment complex is packed with children playing on their summer break, she said.
Robinson said she heard about the children’s deaths after getting a text from her grown daughter: “Mommy, the kids are gone.”
“As a mom, my heart is completely broken,” Robinson said. “It hurts too much.”
Jordanna Marttos, 10, walked around the neighborhood with her dog, Mel, and mother Delma hours after the standoff ended. Jordanna was the first to learn the tragic news when she got on the family computer Tuesday morning.
“He killed himself and he killed the little kids,” Jordanna said matter-of-factly.
Sandi Marti planned to spend her day Tuesday — which marked two years since the massacre that claimed 49 lives at Pulse nightclub — at the Pulse memorial with her wife, Carry.
Instead, the couple, who live in a nearby complex, started a memorial of their own.
Before heading out for their morning walk, they placed a heart-shaped balloon, rose and note that read, “Love always wins” on the chain-link fence behind the Westbrook Apartments.
Staff writers David Harris, Lisa Cianci, Martin Comas, Jeff Weiner and Stephen Ruiz contributed to this report.
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