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UPDATE: Woman's pregnancy a factor in how police are handling Hancock standoff

August 22, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

View the slideshow of the hostage situation

HANCOCK -- The mother of a wanted man who has been barricaded in a Hancock motel room with his girlfriend since Wednesday night made a recorded plea for her son to surrender, Maryland State Police said this morning.

The man, James A. Prevatt III, had not surrendered by 1:25 p.m. today, as the standoff at the America's Best Value Inn continued.

State police acknowledged that the woman's pregnancy is a factor in how they are handling the situation.

The woman, identified by state police as 21-year-old Renee Reynolds, had spoken to hostage negotiators and told them she was fine, state police spokesman Greg Shipley said Friday morning. Negotiators have been in contact with Reynolds' relatives in Summerville, S.C., Shipley said.

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Prevatt told negotiators that Reynolds is pregnant, Shipley said.

On Thursday evening, Prevatt requested that pizza and soda be delievered to the motel room, Shipley said. The food was delivered by robot but Prevatt refused to accept it and threatened to shoot the robot, Shipley said.

At about 11:10 a.m. Friday, the robot was sent to the motel room with a green cooler containing what Shipley believes were breakfast sandwiches. About 10 minutes later, Prevatt took the food and the robot returned without the cooler.

Shipley also said that to his knowledge, Prevatt has not asked to speak to an attorney.

The motel is at 2 Blue Hill Road near the U.S. 522 bridge from Hancock into West Virginia. U.S. 522 from Washington County to the West Virginia state line has been closed since Wednesday night and remained closed Friday, state police said.

Shipley said negotiators had obtained a recorded message from Prevatt's mother in Monck's Corner, S.C., and played it for Prevatt.

Prevatt had told police he was armed, and although that was not confirmed, some of the burglary charges involved the theft of firearms, Shipley said.

At times on Thursday, at least 50 officers from multiple agencies were on the scene.

At least five hostage negotiators were there and had been talking with Prevatt sporadically by phone, Shipley said. As of late Thursday afternoon, no one had been inside the room, he said.

Negotiators were hoping for a peaceful ending to the situation.

"The situation right now is our hostage negotiators are still working to maintain a dialogue with Prevatt," Shipley said Thursday morning. "We are doing everything we can to resolve this peacefully."

Shipley said authorities believe the woman with Prevatt is pregnant in "late term, so we are concerned about her welfare."

"We want everyone to come out of this safely," Shipley said.

No shots had been fired by midmorning Friday.

Members of the Washington County Special Response Team arrived late Thursday morning. By afternoon, several armed officers dressed in tactical gear, some wearing camouflage clothing, were at the scene.

Some of those officers were from the FBI, which regularly trains with Maryland State Police tactical officers, Shipley said. The Baltimore County SWAT team was also on the scene Friday morning.

The Maryland State Police Incident Command Center pulled in Thursday afternoon and parked on the U.S. 522 bridge near the motel. Dozens of marked and unmarked police vehicles were parked around the motel and on the bridge.

Bomb technicians and state fire marshals also were on hand.

At one point Thursday afternoon, a camouflage Humvee pulled in and parked. State police and news helicopters hovered overhead for several hours Thursday.

As a precaution, authorities forced other guests at the motel to leave their rooms during the night Wednesday. On Thursday, several guests, including a barefoot man, were taken away from the scene in a van by a trooper. They were taken to a Motel 8. Their belongings and vehicles remained at Americas Best Value Inn.

Mark Givens, a Virginia farmer headed home from an agriculture fair in Pennsylvania, was staying at the motel Wednesday night. After sleeping on the floor in a lobby area of the hotel, located in a separate building on the property, Givens said Thursday morning it felt like he had won the "wrong lotto."

Washington County Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael, who was in Hancock Thursday morning, said Prevatt is wanted on a warrant issued in July 2000 in Maryland. He is charged with first-degree burglary, fourth-degree burglary and two counts of theft in that warrant.

Electronics equipment was taken from a Guilford Avenue address in Hagerstown in that burglary, Michael said.

At that time, Prevatt was living in Hagerstown.

Michael said it was unclear why the warrant was open so long, "but it's going to be served now."

Authorities did not know where Prevatt had been living, but believe he had been serving time in Massachusetts until February, Shipley said.

State police and other law enforcement agencies had been on the scene since Wednesday night.

Tactical officers from other agencies were called in Thursday to relieve the state police officers who had been working all night, Shipley said.

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