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Hostage seige at Disney ends peacefully

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 30, 2000


LAKE BUENA VISTA -- A man demanding to speak to his estranged wife held his 4-year-old son and a waiter hostage for 11 hours at a Walt Disney World hotel before releasing them unharmed and surrendering early Friday.

Bismark Rodriguez, 39, gave up after a negotiator told him he could spend time with his three other children if he surrendered, said a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Office. He agreed, leaving a handgun in his room before walking out of The Boardwalk Inn.

Sheriff Kevin Beary said Rodriguez was arrested but allowed to meet with his children. He said Rodriguez faced felony charges of false imprisonment.

Rodriguez claimed to be armed with several guns and a bomb when he contacted the hotel manager saying he wanted to kill himself Thursday afternoon, police said. He told the manager he was holding hostages and authorities sealed off the area while negotiators were called in.

The situation was very un-Disneylike, with sheriff's helicopters buzzing and dozens of deputies and security police in the heart of the sprawling Walt Disney World complex.

"I knew something was up when I saw helicopters and TV cameras but I thought it was because a movie star might be here," said Isabelle Mario Martinez, who was told she could not check in.

Some rooms in the 910-room deluxe hotel, which has an Atlantic City boardwalk theme, were evacuated. The rest of the resort, which includes 17 hotels, was operating normally.

The hostages were Rodriguez's son Christopher and 42-year-old Rafael Carmona, who was grabbed when he delivered food to the room Thursday.

Earlier, Rodriguez called television station WKMG twice and said he hadn't seen his other three children in 30 days and he wanted to speak with them and his wife. He said he and his wife of 14 years are going through a divorce.

"All I wanted was a divorce. ... She said we couldn't be friends if we had a divorce," he told the station. "Twenty times she's taken my kids, then she goes to court, plays her little things and I'm too nervous to tell them how I feel. All they do is 'OK, whatever, whatever' and the woman's always right and that's not true."

The sheriff said changing negotiators played a key role in the surrender. Mary Huggins spent about 15 minutes on the scene after eight hours of work by fellow negotiator Billy VanderWater.

"When I came into the negotiations, he was ready to hear a softer voice," Huggins said.

Rhonda Powell, a visitor from LeSueur, Minn., was headed to a restaurant near the hotel when she saw the helicopters and officers.

"You don't expect this to happen here," Powell said. "You think you're in a fantasy land here."

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