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Shooting suspect barges into home, takes children hostage

December 10, 1997

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ Relatives of two preschoolers pleaded today for a murder suspect to release the children a day after he barged into the home and took them hostage.

``Malcolm and Teddy, I love you,″ said Karen Priest, the children’s aunt. ``Please let the babies go. We miss them, we need them.″

Their mother, Adrian Phillips, cried and said, ``I love you Malcolm.″

Malcolm is 4 and his sister, Teddy, is 2.

They are being held by John Edward Armstrong, 39, who negotiated with police through the night.

``He is still awake and he is still communicating with us, which is a great sign,″ Lt. Cheryl DeGroff-Berry said. ``He had to stop negotiating at one point to take one of the kids to the bathroom, so we know they’re being taken care of.″

On the run from police, Armstrong broke into the house Tuesday and released the two women, but he threatened to kill the children if his demands were not met.

``As long as he’s not going to hurt those kids, we don’t care how long it takes,″ Sgt. Bill Mulloy said today. ``We don’t care about the time or the money.″

Armstrong, a career criminal released early from armed robbery charges in March, is suspected of shooting a man to death and wounding a woman earlier Tuesday in nearby Winter Park. Police did not have a motive, but they said Armstrong went to the house looking for his girlfriend, who wasn’t there.

After the shooting, he led police on a highway chase that ended when his car rammed another car and he fled on foot to the house.

``I know he won’t hurt those kids. I feel that deep in my heart,″ said Armstrong’s sister, Doretha Owens, 34. ``He’s scared. He don’t want to go back to prison.″

Turning to television cameras, Ms. Owens pleaded with her brother to surrender: ``John, I’d rather see you in jail than dead.″

Residents closest to the hostage scene were evacuated from their homes. An area stretching four to five blocks from the scene remained cordoned off this morning.

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