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Official: Gunman kills self, 4 child hostages after Florida standoff

Orlando Police Chief John Mina speaks Monday about

Orlando Police Chief John Mina speaks Monday about the 21-hour standoff that began Sunday in Orlando, Fla. Credit: AP / John Raoux

ORLANDO, Fla. — A Florida felon who authorities say killed four children after a daylong standoff that started with the shooting of an officer had recently violated his parole, and his parole officer recommended that he be put in jail for six months. Instead he was given supervised probation, court records show.

Gary Lindsey was arrested last month for theft and then jailed for violating his probation from a decade-old arson charge, the records show. His probation officer said Lindsey posed no threat to the community but she still recommended that he be incarcerated for six months. However, Lindsey’s sister agreed to pay $1,000 and he agreed to pay $300 a month toward restitution, and his supervised probation was reinstated during a court hearing. The records show Lindsey had been working at an auto center in Orlando, earning $1,300 a month.

Sunday’s 21-hour standoff began when Lindsey’s girlfriend left the apartment and told police she had been battered. Lindsey fired at responding officers, seriously wounding one of them. He then holed up inside the apartment for much of the day with the four children, who they say ranged in age from 1 to 11. The girlfriend was the mother of all four children and Lindsey was the father of two of them, said family friend Walter Benenati.

“We heard gunshots, and I saw through the window that the policeman was down,” neighbor Miguel Lopez said. “The top stair was full of blood. They took the police officer down. ... It was horrible.”

Officer Kevin Valencia was in critical condition but was expected to survive, Orlando police Chief John Mina said. One officer was able to return fire. Valencia is in his late 20s and has been with the police department since 2016.

Lindsey, 35, was found dead in a closet when officers entered the apartment about 9 p.m. Monday, more than 21 hours after the standoff started, Mina said at a news conference.

Mina said officers tried to offer one of their phones to Lindsey, whose phone had spotty service, so that they could continue negotiations with him via telephone. When they got to the apartment, however, they saw one of the children had been killed and decided to enter the apartment to rescue the others. All were found dead of gunshot wounds.

A police spokeswoman said Tuesday that the medical examiner, as part of an investigation, would determine when exactly the children were killed.

“Losing four children is unfathomable,” said Benenati, who added that the mother was in a state of shock.

Benenati, who employs the woman’s father, has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for funeral expenses. He said the woman also needs to cover expenses to move out of the apartment where the shootings happened.

Benenati said the oldest child, a boy named Irayan, loved video games and was an overachiever at school. Lillia, the 10-year-old, was a huge Disney fan and enjoyed being with her friends. He said 6-year-old Aidan had a dinosaur obsession and 22-month-old Dove liked to run.

The woman was the mother of all four children. Lindsey was the father of Aidan and Dove, he said.

Lindsey committed “an unspeakable horror,” Benenati said.

Neighbors in the Florida apartment complex described Lindsey as both nice and strange.

He came off as polite and friendly, neighbor Nicole Gonzalez said Tuesday morning as she returned to her Orlando home after being evacuated more than a day earlier during the standoff.

“His kids were beautiful, sweet children — well-mannered, as well,” Gonzalez said.

But Lopez said his interactions with Lindsey were “weird.”

“We used to see the guy here, walking and smoking,” said Lopez, who lived a floor above Lindsey, his girlfriend and their four children. “Whenever we’d say, ‘Hi. How are you?’ He was like ... “ Lopez said, shaking his head to indicate that they got no response.

On Tuesday, blue tarps covered the apartment building’s back windows where SWAT officers apparently had gone in. A medical examiner’s van left the apartment complex midmorning.

Court records show Lindsey had an extensive criminal history involving arson, battery and theft. He was on probation for several charges, including arson.

The arson charge stemmed from an encounter with his girlfriend in 2008. She called police when Lindsey stabbed a television with a knife and then smashed the screen with his fist, according to a charging affidavit. Lindsey told his girlfriend to leave their Orange City, Florida, home and when she refused, he told her, “You need to get the dogs and leave my grave,” the report said. The girlfriend left with the dogs and as she was departing she saw Lindsey carrying gasoline cans to the front door. A short time later, the fire department was called to the home to put out a fire.

Lindsey was sentenced to 10 years of supervised probation, followed by unsupervised probation.

George Almeida, who lives in a neighboring building, said the lease must have been in Lindsey’s girlfriend’s name since the apartment managers run a background check on potential tenants.

Almeida said he didn’t know Lindsey personally but would see him wearing a gas mask and spray-painting items beside a tree outside his apartment building.

“He looked like a nice guy,” Almeida said. “He didn’t look like anyone who would cause trouble. But you never know. You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

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