Watch: Fla. deputy ends hostage standoff with career criminal holding woman at knifepoint
The career criminal with 58 felony convictions threatened law enforcement and bail bondsmen in a tense standoff that ended in gunfire
By Warren Kulo
ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. — A career criminal wanted on drug charges in both Florida and Alabama held a woman hostage for more than five hours before a single shot from an Escambia County (Fla.) deputy ended the standoff.
Escambia County Sheriff Chip Simmons said during a Monday press conference the incident took place in the 4700 block of Helton Lane, northwest of Pensacola.
Deputies arrived at the scene shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday with multiple warrants in both Florida and Alabama for 53-year-old Ronnie Clark’s arrest on methamphetamine-related charges. Simmons noted during the press conference Clark had 58 previous felony convictions and had served three different prison terms.
Clark was classified in Florida as a violent “felony offender of special concern,” Simmons said.
The deputies found Clark inside a tent with a woman and overheard what sounded like meth being smoked inside the tent. Once Clark became aware of the deputies’ presence, he held the woman at knifepoint and threatened to shoot deputies, as well as two bail bondsmen on the scene, initiating the five-hour standoff.
A perimeter was established as law enforcement worked to negotiate with Clark, but without success. Tear gas was also used, but failed to end the standoff, Simmons said.
Drone video footage Simmons played during the press conference shows Clark ultimately attempting to leave the scene, holding a knife to the woman’s throat as he made his way to his vehicle, with multiple Escambia County SWAT team members behind an adjacent sheriff’s vehicle.
Clark and the hostage enter his vehicle, but another sheriff’s vehicle is pulled up to prevent Clark from leaving the scene. One of the SWAT team members approaches Clark’s vehicle, firing one shot and killing Clark.
Simmons said the bullet may have gone through Clark and struck the hostage. She was taken to a local hospital for treatment. Simmons had no information on her condition.
The sheriff also said they believed Clark had a gun and the two bail bondsmen said they believed Clark had a gun, as well. Simmons also said Clark was overheard making phone calls in which he indicated he had a firearm.
“In a situation like this, we care about human life,” Simmons said. “We care more about the hostage than the hostage-taker. The deputy had an opportunity to end this, because we could not let that vehicle go.
“Our criminal escalated these events, and it cost him his life.”
As is protocol with all shootings involving law enforcement, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will investigate the incident.
“He was wanted for the crimes he committed, he had over 50 felony convictions, he threatened our deputies, he threatened the bondsmen, he held a knife to the throat of a hostage and he tried to get away,” Simmons said.
“If you do these type of things, you’re not long for this world, quite honestly,” Simmons added. “You play this type of stupid game and you get what you get.”