Sheriff: Toddler and woman held hostage in Tampa hotel by man who shot at SWAT team, tried to set room on fire

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A man who held two family members – a toddler and a woman – hostage for more than eight hours in a Tampa hotel room surrendered Monday morning after shooting at SWAT team members and trying to set the room on fire, according to deputies.

A spokesperson for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said a phone call came in around 11:15 Sunday night about a barricaded subject inside a room at the Suburban Extended Stay Hotel on Hillsborough Avenue near Sawyer Road. According to the sheriff’s office, the person who called in also mentioned the man had a firearm.

In a news conference Monday morning, Sheriff Chad Chronister said when deputies got to the scene, they confirmed a man was holding two family members hostage. Deputies immediately called SWAT and crisis negotiation teams to the scene to help.

Once SWAT negotiators got to the scene, Chronister said they tried to make contact but couldn’t get in touch with the suspect or the family members.

“We attempted to provide them with a phone, he refused to take any type of phone at all – again, would only yell out certain obscenities or little comments that he would make throughout the night,” Chronister said. “This subject was extremely, extremely agitated.”

Chronister said at certain points throughout the overnight situation, the suspect got “so irate and out of control that he discharged his firearm” inside the hotel. He said the man tried to set the room on fire too, saying that “we saw smoke at some point.”

The sheriff said the suspect also shot at the SWAT team that was trying to make contact with him, “intentionally trying to strike one of them.”

“Matter of fact, one of our SWAT team members – from some type of, we believe from the fragment of the bullet – was struck in the face and has a minor laceration to his face,” Chronister said. “Luckily, that’s the extent of the injury here today.”

After eight and a half hours, Chronister said, the suspect peacefully surrendered. The sheriff identified the man as 53-year-old Victor Hernandez and said he is not from Hillsborough County but is here vacationing with his family. He is believed to be from North Carolina and is now facing charges for false imprisonment and aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer.

Chronister said the 2-year-old child and the woman who were held hostage were checked out by EMTs at the scene and are OK.

During his news conference, Sheriff Chronister commended the work of the SWAT team and crisis negotiators who responded to the situation. He noted that most of them came right from WrestleMania at Raymond James Stadium and were up for more than 24 hours.

Part of Hillsborough Avenue has been shut down for the investigation. The road is closed in both directions between Hanley Road and Sawyer Road.

Several people who are staying at the hotel tell 8 On Your Side they were pulled out of their rooms around 11:30 p.m. Sunday and told to evacuate.

“I am ready to go back in my room, I’m tired and I feel like this taking a long time,” Lisa Reder said. “Some people didn’t have shoes shirts jackets nothing.”

Matthew Sterling is also staying at the hotel. He came to town this weekend to attend WrestleMania at Raymond James Stadium.

“I have no clue what to do, I’ll try to speak with officials to see what’s going on and how long they think this might be going on for,” he said.

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