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Roadway standoff ends peacefully

A five-hour Miami incident ends with a gunman's arrest and the release of a postal carrier unharmed.

©Associated Press
February 1, 2003

MIAMI -- What began as a botched robbery turned into a nationally televised five-hour police chase and hostage standoff Friday, as a gunman forced a mail carrier to elude pursuing officers in her postal truck as he fired shots at them.

After officers tossed spikes in the way of the truck to flatten its tires and stop it and heavily armed SWAT team members surrounded the vehicle, the gunman held 32-year-old carrier Tanya Mitchell captive for two hours before releasing her unharmed.

The gunman, identified as 38-year-old Nevia Abraham, surrendered about an hour later.

"We were in constant communication with the subject," Miami-Dade County police Chief Carlos Alvarez said. "He was just rambling; he wasn't making any demands."

Mitchell was delivering mail Friday morning when a woman called police to say two men were following her car, Detective Randy Rossman said.

When officers arrived, they found Abraham and a second man breaking into the postal truck. Abraham got inside and forced Mitchell to drive away, police said. The second man, Jonathan Hamilton, 47, tried to run away but was arrested.

Dozens of police officers chased the truck with Mitchell at the wheel as it slowly drove through residential neighborhoods, sometimes stopping so the gunman could talk to bystanders. Witnesses said he knelt behind Mitchell, apparently giving her directions, his two handguns at the ready.

The Rev. Marc Cooper gave his cell phone to the gunman when the postal truck stopped next to him, hoping police could communicate with the man.

Cooper said Abraham "didn't seem agitated, he didn't seem nervous."

He said his secretary called police to let them know the gunman had his phone.

As the truck navigated main streets, Mitchell obeyed red lights and the speed limit, occasionally darting around traffic. Sometimes she would make U-turns, heading back past pursuing officers. Police blocked cross-traffic to keep the truck's path unhindered, and 48 Miami-area schools were locked down. TV helicopters flew overhead, broadcasting the chase.

Finally, officers threw spikes onto the road, flattening the two left tires. The truck stopped in an intersection and was surrounded by black-helmeted, rifle-toting police officers. The standoff began.

The gunman used mail to partly block the view through the windows. Eventually, a robot was used to hand a phone through the passenger window inside.

Police negotiator Michael Laurent talked to the gunman, who seemed to have his emotions under control, Alvarez said.

After about two hours, Mitchell climbed out of the back of the truck, walked a few steps and then ran to officers.

The gunman became agitated, and police said he began to talk about suicide.

"It got a little hairy," Alvarez said.

An hour after the hostage was released, the gunman backed out of the truck, his hands over his head. He walked backward to awaiting officers, who handcuffed him, put him in a patrol car and drove away.

Alvarez said Abraham would face federal and state charges of attempted murder, kidnapping and armed robbery. Hamilton is facing armed robbery charges, he said.

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