TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A man who was involved in a standoff that lasted at least 16 hours has died several hours after the two children he was holding hostage were released unharmed, according to the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies were called at about 9:40 p.m. on Monday night to a home on Oliver Road in Venus for a domestic violence call, according to deputies.
One person managed to escape the home by the time officers arrived. However, the suspect, 43-year-old Sonny Ray Holland Sr., remained inside the home with his two children, a 3-year-old and a 4-year-old, and refused to come out.
Deputies worried Holland may have been armed and feared for the children’s safety. They established a perimeter around the home and tried to convince Holland to come outside, but their attempts failed.
Detectives with the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office obtained a search warrant for the property as well as an arrest warrant for domestic violence battery (strangulation), two counts of child endangerment, two counts of false imprisonment, and resisting arrest for Holland, a three-time convicted felon.
The sheriff’s office crisis negotiation team, along with the department’s SWAT unit, responded to the home and tried to persuade Holland to either come outside himself or release the children, but he refused.
Several deputies and negotiators spent more than 12 consecutive hours on the phone with Holland, trying to bring the standoff to a “peaceful end.”
The two children were released unharmed at about 4:35 p.m.
After deputies deployed liquid-based gas canisters into the mobile home, deputies heard a gunshot and noticed smoke.
According to deputies, Holland came out the door and started firing at the Polk County SWAT team members, who returned fire. He immediately went back inside the home, which was engulfed in flames, making it impossible for first responders to go inside.
HCSO said Holland could not be rescued. An autopsy will determine his exact cause of death.
“I want to commend our deputies, SWAT Team and Crisis Negotiators for giving their all for 12 hours on this incident,” Sheriff Paul Blackman said in a statement. “I also want to thank Sheriff Grady Judd and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for allowing us to utilize their resources and give our deputies a much-needed break. Our prayers are with the children and the rest of the family whose lives were forever changed today.”
The children were taken to the hospital out of precaution and have been placed in protective custody, according to authorities.
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