ORLANDO, Fla. - The State Attorney's Office has cleared a police sharpshooter of any wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of a hostage during a three-day standoff.
Officer Christopher J. Savard, a sniper with the Orlando Police Department, was aiming for the hostage-taker on July 23 when he mistook Andrea Hall for her captor, police said.
The standoff began a day earlier when Jamie Dean Petron, 41, stormed into a home and took Hall, 40, her niece and three children hostage in a home. Petron, a convicted felon wanted in a convenience-store slaying the previous day, held the five hostages for 51 hours before killing himself.
On the second day of the standoff, Petron told negotiators they had shot someone when the sniper fired into the home. But authorities said Petron refused to give up the injured hostage and threatened to hurt the others, ranging in age from about 8 months to 16 years old, if authorities tried to enter the home.
Two of the children were released on the second day of the standoff. The others were freed by police who stormed the house on the third day, July 24. Hall had already been dead for several hours, officials said. Petron, who had barricaded himself in a bedroom, shot himself.
A Florida Department of Law Enforcement report on the shooting released Friday described conflicting accounts of communications among the officers and agencies trying to end the standoff.
It raised questions about whether the members of Orlando's SWAT team were informed by their Orange County sheriff's counterparts and hostage negotiators that Hall would be sent by Petron to retrieve food for the hostages that morning.
Savard told the FDLE that the person he shot ''had a towel over the head which obscured the face,'' according to the report.
Sgt. Mike Favorit, an officer with Savard at the time, said Savard said he had spotted a ''heavyset male.'' But seconds prior to the shooting, a second Orlando police sniper team spotted a ''heavyset black female'' in the doorway, the report said. It said an officer was about to broadcast the description when Savard fired.
Savard, 34, who has been on leave with pay since the shooting, was expected to return to work next week. State Attorney Lawson Lamar wrote in a letter to Police Chief Jerry Demings on Friday that the matter was closed.
Hall's husband, Karl Hall, met Friday with attorneys to discuss filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Defense attorney Johnnie Cochran is part of the family's legal team.
''The case is not closed, that much I can assure you,'' Karl Hall said. ''There's still a lot of hurt here.''