A massive manhunt is underway in west Florida near the Alabama border for a Missouri couple wanted in a crime spree across the southern U.S, officials said early Friday.
The U.S. Marshal’s Service confirmed to AL.com there was a search ongoing for more than an hour near the Pensacola International Airport. Law enforcement officials said a car chase had turned into a foot chase around the area near the airport and the Pensacola Heights.
Blake Fitzgerald and Brittany Nicole Harper, both believed to be in their 30s, have been on the run since Sunday and are suspected of committing crimes in Missouri, Alabama, Georgia and Florida in the last week. Thursday night’s chase is possibly related to a robbery of a Famous Footwear store on Davis Highway, according to AL.com.
The manhunt for Fitzgerald and Harper is the latest chapter in the crime saga. Police said the couple started the crime spree in Missouri on Jan. 26. They are wanted in two separate car chases, according to Cape Girardeau Country Sheriff’s Office Capt. David James in Missouri.
James said a Cadillac was stolen from a used car lot and when officers spotted the car, the driver failed to pull over and was chased until officers lost sight of them. Later that day, the couple allegedly broke into a Cape Girardeau house, ditched the Cadillac, and stole a red Chevrolet Trailblazer, which may have been used to drive to Alabama.
Investigators said the couple drove to Alabama and abducted a hotel clerk, tried to rob a McDonald’s manager and briefly kidnapped a woman outside Birmingham before stealing her SUV on Sunday. Those crimes happened within a two-hour span across a 60-mile distance, according to authorities.
The Bonnie-and-Clyde couple was then involved in an armed robbery Monday night at a central Georgia gas station. Perry Police didn’t give any further details of the robbery.
After the alleged gas station robbery, Fitzgerald and Couple entered Alvin’s Island Tropical Department store in Destin, Fla. The couple walked around the store checking out items when the couple met in the back of the store, said Okaloosa County sheriff’s spokeswoman Michele Nicholson said. Harper left the store while Fitzgerald put items in the basket and brought it to the cashier.
Nicholson said as the cashier began to remove the items from the basket, Fitzgerald pulled out a handgun and took an undisclosed amount of cash from the register. According to AL.com, Fitzgerald and Harper were seen heading east.
Hours later, Escambia County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Amber Southhard said the couple is suspected of robbing a Piggly Wiggly. A white, bald man was described as entering the store and escaping with more cash. Southard said the man was wearing an American Eagle sweatshirt and entered a pickup truck driven by a female in a hooded sweatshirt.
No one has been hurt in the string of robberies.
Fitzgerald and Harper are both from Joplin, Mo. and are described as being in their 30s. The U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Regional Task Force was asked to assist the manhunt and a $10,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to their arrest.
“They’re considered armed and dangerous,” Tuscaloosa police Lt. Kip Hart said earlier this week. “We have no idea why they’re running or where they’re running from or running to.”
Missouri public records show Fitzgerald is no stranger to legal troubles. In 2013, he and an accomplice were charged with burglarizing a Joplin woman at knifepoint in her home and making off with her purse, jewelry, electronics and a car.
Fitzgerald entered an Alford plea — not admitting guilt but acknowledging the prosecutors had sufficient evidence for a conviction — and was sentenced in 2014 to a suspended seven-year prison term.
Fitzgerald also was sentenced in southwestern Missouri’s Jasper County to a simultaneous 120-day term in a drunken-driving case. Last July, Fitzgerald pleaded guilty in a Missouri assault case and was sentenced to a suspended five-year prison term.
Anyone with any information about the couple is asked to call 911 or the nearest U.S. Marshal’s Office or the U.S. Marshal’s Service Communication Center at 1-800-336-0102 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.