MULBERRY — After a nine-hour standoff Thursday, authorities from multiple law enforcement agencies successfully apprehended two suspects in a recent crime spree that allegedly included evading arrest on several occasions, assaulting an officer, armed robbery, and theft of firearms, among other offenses.
Shortly after 8 p.m., authorities announced a search warrant and used a flash bang before entering a house at 809 S. Military Ave. in Mulberry, which they had surrounded since before noon.
After an extensive search of the home, 28-year-old William Patton of Pittsburg and 21-year-old Kaitlyn McMurry of Girard — who had allegedly evaded capture by various law enforcement agencies at least four times in recent weeks in Crawford, Allen and Woodson counties, as well as across the state line in Joplin — were found hiding in the attic and taken into custody.
“They actually ended up finding them up in the attic of the house hiding between the floorboards,” said Crawford County Sheriff Danny Smith. “That’s some commitment on their part, but we weren’t going anywhere til we found them.”
The Pittsburg Police Department received information Thursday morning indicating Patton and McMurry were hiding out in Mulberry, according to a department press release.
“Pittsburg PD and the KBI did a really great job of initiating information on that,” Smith said.
Aside from the Crawford County Sheriff Office, Pittsburg PD, and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, other agencies involved in the standoff included the Arma and Mulberry police departments, the Bourbon County Sheriff’s Office, which brought a canine unit, the Barton County Sheriff’s Office, whose jurisdiction ends just a few hundred yards away across the Missouri state line, the Mulberry Fire Department and Crawford County Emergency Medical Services. A U.S. Marshals Service representative was also on the scene, Smith said.
“I hope I didn’t leave anybody out because there were so many there,” he said.
Because it was working on a separate investigation into a body found early Wednesday by the roadside in Opolis, his office “was on a skeleton crew,” Smith said. “We would not have been able to handle that without the help of these guys because we are neck deep in that investigation.”
Entry into the house several hours into the standoff was led by the KBI’s High Risk Warrant Team, according to PPD’s release.
“That puts those officers in a very precarious position when they’re in small, confined spaces looking for people, but they did a thorough job,” Smith said. “KBI, Pittsburg PD tactical team did a fantastic job, and again the partnerships we have with all these agencies, when you can bring all these agencies together and not have one issue, it’s going to be successful for us every time.”
Earlier efforts to get the suspects to leave the residence included the use of tear gas, and also likely pepper spray, Smith said.
“They don’t even do that until they've given them plenty of opportunities, because they’ll make announcements and ask them to come out peacefully, and they were given plenty of opportunity to do that, and then there’s other tactics that will start coming into play, and that was one of them,” he said.
A drone was also reportedly deployed to look around the building, and a PA system was used to tell the suspects to leave the house.
“It’s over, Will,” officers could be heard saying over loudspeakers at one point.
“They used a ton of tools to try to get them to come out,” Smith said.
“You’re trying to create an opportunity for them to come out. Best case scenario for us, they come out with their hands up, and we couldn’t do that, unfortunately that didn’t happen that way, but again safety is priority number one for everybody.”
Earlier in the day Thursday a Pittsburg police representative said it was still under investigation whether Patton and McMurry had been involved in a pursuit in the early hours of Wednesday morning in Joplin. That pursuit, which began shortly after midnight, reportedly involved a maroon pickup truck matching the description of one that allegedly fled the scene of an attempt Sunday, Jan. 19, to apprehend Patton and McMurry in Pittsburg.
By Friday, Smith said it appeared likely that the Joplin pursuit — which also reportedly involved a Missouri State Highway Patrol Air Unit and a manhunt for several hours along I-44 after the suspects abandoned the truck and ran into the woods — likely involved the same suspects arrested in Mulberry.
If so, that escape appears to have followed at least two other successful evasions of authorities in Pittsburg and Woodson County, according to Pittsburg police.
Patton, who was formerly convicted of aggravated battery and aggravated assault in 2014 through the Crawford County District Court and sentenced to five years in prison, also allegedly held a gun to a female victim’s head Dec. 31 and brandished a firearm during an unrelated altercation Jan. 8.
During a Jan. 19 attempt to apprehend Patton in Pittsburg an officer discharged their department-issued handgun, according to the Pittsburg Police Department, and Patton almost struck one of the officers when fleeing the scene in the maroon Chevy Silverado pickup truck later apparently pursued in Joplin.
“They were committed to not getting caught, and you know what, we were equally committed to apprehending them,” Smith said.
Asked to brief the Crawford County Commission on the standoff at its Friday meeting, Smith said his department had “a successful night” Thursday. “A long night, but successful.”
Although the standoff did take approximately nine hours from start to finish, neither the officers involved nor suspects were hurt, which was the goal, Smith said, adding that they would have spent longer on the operation if necessary.
“It was successful,” Smith said. “I was absolutely ecstatic how it ended.”