Orlando Sentinel

Hostage taker at Disney  surrenders to police

By Pamela J. Johnson
of The Sentinel Staff
[Updated 06/30/2000 2:17 AM EST]
Published in The Orlando Sentinel on June 30, 2000.


Negotiations. Orange County Sheriff Kevin Barry addresses the media about the state of negotiations in the hostage situation at Disney Boardwalk.
SHOUN A. HILL/THE ORLANDO SENTINEL


Bismark Rodriguez (AP)

LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Real-life family problems intruded on Walt Disney's fantasy world Thursday when a man took his 4-year-old son and a waiter hostage in a room at one of the resort's upscale hotels.

Bismark Rodriguez, 39, surrendered peacefully about 12:30 a.m. today after negotiators offered to let him see his children in exchange for freeing the hostages, Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary said. Rodriguez had holed up in a second-floor room at Disney's BoardWalk Inn for 11 hours.

Beary said the breakthrough came after 11 p.m. Thursday when deputy sheriff Bill Van de Water, who had been the sole negotiator, handed off to Deputy Mary Huggins.

"It was mostly Billy,'' Huggins said. "I just made the sale. Billy told me he was ready for a softer voice. That's how I approached it, softly."

Huggins said Rodriguez told her he loved his children and wanted to come out. He left his guns on a bed and walked out with his hands up.

"The turning point came when I told him he was a good dad. That's when he opened the door,'' Huggins said.

The sheriff disclosed that Rodriguez, who had barricaded himself in the room, fired a shot during an angry stretch of the negotiations. No one was hurt.

"This has been a good way to end a tense situation,'' the sheriff said. "Folks, you don't know how happy I am.''

Rodriguez's wife and his other children — girls 9 and 12 years old and an 11-year-old boy — arrived at the hotel late Thursday, and Beary said that Rodriguez likely would see them. A brother, who helped the negotiations, also was at the hotel.

The hostage situation began about 1:30 p.m. when the waiter, identified as Rafael Carmona of Kissimmee, delivered food to Rodriguez in room 2299.

Dozens of deputy sheriffs and Disney security police closed off the immediate area after Rodriguez called the hotel manager to report that he was armed and wanted to kill himself. He later surprised them by making two calls to WKMG-Channel 6.

According to WKMG, the man said he had a bomb and several guns and had chosen the hotel because he thought his wife of 14 years was having an affair with a hotel employee. Rodriguez said he hadn't seen his other three children in 30 days, and he wanted to speak with them and his wife.

"All I wanted was a divorce. ... She said we couldn't be friends if we had a divorce," he told the station. "OK — don't be friends, but let me see the kids. Twenty times she's taken my kids, then she goes to court, plays her little things, and I'm too nervous to tell them how I feel. All they do is, ‘OK, whatever, whatever' and the woman's always right, and that's not true."

Rodriguez said he would release the hostages if he could speak to his wife.

"She apparently has left him. ... He wants us to find the wife and bring her to him," sheriff's Sgt. Bernie Presha said.

Beary said Rodriguez, his son, Christopher, and the waiter were not hurt. Before the surrender, the boy was so lively that his father had to tell him to quiet down so he could hear the negotiators.

Sheriff's officials said 104 rooms and 286 guests were evacuated from the seaside-style hotel, one of several lodges that ring a lake next to the Epcot theme park. Some later were allowed to return.

Although news of the incident spread quickly around the world by TV and news services, the event hardly caused a stir at the vast Disney resort, which has 17 hotels on its property.

Disney gave few details to evacuees, and many visitors near the hotel seemed unaware that anything was amiss. Guests routed from their rooms said Disney personnel told them only that there was an "incident" and everything was under control. Free drinks, meals and snacks helped calm their jitters.

"We're just following law enforcement's lead," Disney Public Affairs Manager Diane Ledder said. "It's dangerous to give out the wrong information. And we don't want to cause panic."

Fifteen members of a New Jersey family, who booked four rooms on the third floor, were allowed to enter their rooms about an hour after the SWAT team arrived.

Dennis Colgan, 38, heard the commotion downstairs and began videotaping the SWAT members below from his balcony.

"Like an idiot, we were all on the balcony where it was potentially dangerous," said Lisa Antonecci, 36,of the New Jersey family

"We didn't know what was happening," Antonecci said. "I had to call my mother in Pennsylvania, who was watching CNN and feeding us information. She told me they were going to evacuate our room any minute."

The New Jersey family was asked to evacuate shortly after 3:30 p.m.

By 5 p.m. dozens of guests were camped out in the hotel lobby and lounge. Many adults and children were dozing .

As the day wore on without a resolution, displaced guests were offered rooms elsewhere. Some moved to the nearby Yacht & Beach Club Resort.

Beary said authorities had shut off the television service so Rodriguez could not watch news reports of the situation.

"We're just trying to keep him calmed down," Beary said.

Records indicate that Rodriguez and his family lived in the Poinciana community near Kissimmee for several years. He recently had lived in California.

Former neighbors on Bobcat Lane in Poinciana described the family of six as friendly but reserved. The father was quick to greet neighbors as he drove by.

One neighbor said the father mowed her lawn and kept an eye on her home when she was on vacation and sent her pork, beans and rice on New Year's Eve.

Neighbors said the family moved out only recently. The two-story brick-and-wood home was empty Thursday evening.

Tim Barker, Denise-Marie Balona and Pedro Ruz Gutierrez of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Wire services also were used.

Copyright 2000 orlandosentinel.com