Three siblings from Florida are on the run from the FBI, accused of shooting at a police car during a high-speed chase and robbing a bank with assault weapons. A sheriff fears the crime spree could be the start of a "violent mission" and the mother of the fugitive trio is urging her two sons and daughter to give up before there's bloodshed.
The hunt began Tuesday when an officer northeast of Tampa, Fla., tried to pull a car over for speeding. A 5-mile chase ensued, with speeds up to 100 mph, and at least two people in the fleeing car squeezed off 20 or more gunshots. A bullet burst the patrol car's front tire and the suspects got away, said Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco. The officer wasn't injured.
A few hours later, about 210 miles north along Interstate 75, three people wearing masks charged into the Certus Bank in Valdosta, Ga. One of the robbers brandished an AK-47 assault rifle while another was photographed by a security camera waving a machine pistol, the FBI said. The robbers fired shots into the ceiling, then fled with an undisclosed amount of money in a white sedan similar to the Subaru in the Florida chase.
"I love all my children very much," Barbara Bell of East Palatka, Fla., told The Associated Press in a brief phone interview Friday. "Although they've done some very bad things, no one has been physically injured yet. I would encourage my children to turn themselves in."
Police have posted photos on electronic billboards across the Southeast of 21-year-old Ryan Edward Dougherty, 26-year-old Dylan Dougherty Stanley and 29-year-old Lee Grace Dougherty.
"We don't know where they're going or what their intentions are," said Nocco, the Florida sheriff. "May the Lord look over all of us, because these three are on some type of mission. And it is a violent mission."
Sheriff's investigators linked the siblings to the case after they found Ryan Dougherty's ankle monitor near the scene of the car chase. He had just been issued the monitor after being convicted of sending sexually explicit text messages to an 11-year-old girl. Records show he had registered as a sex offender Monday.
Bell told the AP her son was "unbearably discouraged by the terms of his probation" and said he feared the conviction would prohibit him from seeing his newborn son.
"That could have triggered it," Bell said of the crime spree.
Nocco said all three siblings had been living together in Lacoochee, Fla., about 45 miles northeast of Tampa, and each had a criminal record. Lee Dougherty has charges pending against her in Florida for hit and run and had previously been charged with battery, Nocco said, and Stanley Dougherty had been charged with marijuana possession.
He said police fear the siblings are carrying "an arsenal of weapons." Tracing prior background checks run by gun sellers, police confirmed that Ryan Dougherty bought an AK-47 assault rifle — like the one used in the bank robbery — at a pawn shop two years ago. Similar checks showed his brother also owned guns.
"They pose an imminent threat to any law enforcement that comes into contact with them," said agent Stephen Emmett of the FBI's Atlanta office. "They've also demonstrated a threat to the public as well."
Nocco said that's in part because of a recent text message Ryan Dougherty sent his mother. The sheriff said he didn't know the exact words, but paraphrased the message as saying: "There's a time for all of us to die."
The siblings' mother said the wording of her son's text message had been reported inaccurately, but she refused to describe what it said.
Authorities say they believe the siblings are driving a white Subaru Impreza with New York tags stolen from Ryan Dougherty's girlfriend.