LAKELAND (FOX 13) - An apparent hostage situation at a McDonald's restaurant in Lakeland has ended and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said suspects were in custody.
The ordeal began in Hillsborough County with an armed carjacking, according to the sheriff's office. About half an hour later, the suspect vehicle was spotted on Interstate 4, officials said. The suspects fled into Polk County and eventually exited at County Line Road in Lakeland.
Investigators said the suspects tried to carjack another person at McDonald's, but weren't successful, so they went into the restaurant through the drive thru window. Several people realized what was happening and ran out of the restaurant, but when deputies arrived, it was believed some people remained inside.
Once on the scene, deputies said one of three suspects surrendered himself, leaving two others inside. HSCO believed, at that point, there was a hostage situation. Adding to their belief, a person who contacted them through social media, saying he was being held inside the restaurant.
It was more than an hour until deputies realized the person was not inside. Deputies later found the person and found out he wasn't associated with the incident at all.
"He had nothing to do with it," Sheriff Gee said. "He apparently just took an opportunity on social media, which took a lot of time of day, and it put some lives in danger, cost the taxpayers a ton of money, and it caused you to stand out here a lot longer than you would have had to."
Once they were confident no hostages were inside, deputies went into the McDonald's and said it appeared the suspects were hiding between the drop ceiling tiles and the roof. Deputies began to lift the tiles to find them and one came down and surrendered. Deputies deployed a flash bang device and the other suspect revealed himself.
Sheriff Gee said two guns were recovered - one from the stolen, wrecked car and one from the McDonald's. Gee said charges were pending, but he was not sure what charges the three would face.