Hostage standoff ends peacefully

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 21, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

A hostage situation that began around 11:30 Sunday night ended peacefully before noon Monday when the armed suspect surrendered after several volleys of teargas.

Abdul Jamal Skinner, 26, has been charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of a sawed-off shotgun, attempted malicious wounding of police officers, abduction, shooting into an occupied dwelling, discharging a firearm near a public roadway, and obstruction of justice.


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Even before those charges were filed, Skinner was wanted by Suffolk police on charges of rape, abduction, and domestic assault and battery. A warrant for Skinner was issued following those crimes, allegedly committed against the mother of his child.

It was her house at 315 1/2 Jackson Streeet, where Skinner holed-up, hiding from police, for the past two or three days after returning from New York, said Suffolk Police Information Coordinator Mike Simpkins. On Saturday, Skinner’s photograph, a description of him, and charges against him ran in the News-Herald’s &uot;Crime Line Wanted&uot; columns.

Some of those charges involved an incident where Skinner allegedly beat the girl, requiring 15 stitches to her face. It wasn’t the first time that he’d been violent with her according to police.

His uncle, Gary Skinner, said the couple has always had problems.

&uot;They would get together and break up all the time,&uot; said the uncle. &uot;It is an unfortunate situation that has ended up very bad for him.&uot;

Police are not sure what happened to cause Skinner to take the mother of his child as well as the child hostage, but around 11:30 p.m. Sunday, Emergency 911 received the call advising them of the situation.

Simpkins said the victim and her child managed to slip out of the house when Skinner fell asleep.

Around 1:30 a.m., a shot was fired just as Skinner’s mother Bonita Skinner arrived on the scene from Hampton where she sometimes shared her home with her troubled son.

At 4:15 a.m., a second shot rang out and shattered a window in the house.

Bonita Skinner spoke with her son by cell phone, trying to talk him out of the house. He said he was afraid &uot;someone&uot; was going to hurt him and stayed inside.

Hostage negotiators then attempted to talk Skinner out and still, he refused to leave the house. At 7:47 a.m., police began lobbing tear gas canisters into the house. Again at 8:01, more teargas was fired into the house, and again at 9 a.m. He remained in the house as the outdoor temperature began to heat up, and dozens of people began bringing lawn chairs to sit in the shade of nearby trees to watch the drama.

The parking lots were soon filled with onlookers closed in their air conditioned vehicles while others mopped sweat from themselves as the sun beat down.

As the situation dragged on and became more intense, additional police officers arrived including a Chesapeake Police Department Swat Team. Marksmen, armed and heavily clothed in protective gear and bullet proof vests, took up positions around the two story home as Skinner’s mother began to angrily scream, &uot;You’re all evil!&uot;

Onlookers spoke to each other in hushed tones as they again watched police fire six more canisters of tear gas into the house. Smoke billowed from the house that time. Observers in the parking lots across from the Jackson Street house backed away as the smoke-filled air began to affect them.

Between the lack of air conditioning in the house and the tear gas, Skinner was also being affected. He suddenly opened the front door and stumbled out with a towel wrapped around his head and face.

Police dragged him off the porch and away from the tear gas laden air.

Skinner’s mother watched in tears as she was supported by several family members and a friend, the Rev. Wallace Johnson of Bible Way Temple Church. She was obviously frightened and shaking when she saw her son being taken off the porch and handcuffed. Immediately, a Suffolk Police captain came to lead her to speak with her son before he was transported to Obici Hospital to be checked for possible injuries.

Relief flooded Bonita Skinner’s face and she even broke into a smile as she came to speak with television crews and print media.

&uot;I want to apologize for my earlier outburst of anger, but it was my son,&uot; said Skinner. &uot;I am grateful that no one was hurt; my son or the policemen. I really appreciate the way they handled everything. Once they explained everything, I calmed down because I was very angry and anxious at first. I apologize to everyone for my anger because it just looked bad from where I was sitting.&uot;

Rev. Johnson said he’d led the family in prayer and he said his prayers were answered.

&uot;The officers and everyone is safe and the police did a very fine job, and we are very grateful to God,&uot; said Johnson. &uot;It turned out as well as it could, and he’s going to be OK.&uot;