Boy held hostage for 30 hours: 'I just knew that God had me'

A photo showing Sincere just moments after being rescued. He enjoyed a donut in the safety of police custody. (Provided by Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones)
A photo showing Sincere just moments after being rescued. He enjoyed a donut in the safety of police custody. (Provided by Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones)
Donald Tobias Gazaway (Butler County Jail)
Donald Tobias Gazaway (Butler County Jail)

LIBERTY TOWNSHIP, OH (FOX19) - The 10-year-old boy held hostage by a gunman said he was only "a little bit scared" during his 30-hours as a kidnapping victim.

Sincere Trammell said his captor kept him in a closet and in a vehicle parked in the garage of his mother's Liberty Township condo over the weekend.

Despite the terrifying ordeal, the fourth grader put on a brave face.

"I just knew that God had me," Sincere said in an interview Tuesday.

The suspect, Donald Gazaway, 31, fired 20 to 30 bullets at authorities while keeping the boy in front of him as a "human shield," according to Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones.

Gazaway had four guns, the child said.

The incident started late Friday night. Gazaway got into a dispute with the boy's mother inside the woman's apartment, Jones has said.

[Sheriff: Standoff suspect used child hostage as human shield]

Gazaway, described by the boy's family Tuesday as a longtime family friend, demanded thousands in cash from the woman, according to the sheriff.

She refused. The argument escalated. Gazaway pulled a gun.

Sincere's mother ran out of the apartment with the boy's uncle, leaving her son behind.

Seconds later, deputies responded to a report of a 10-year-old held hostage inside the apartment.

Shortly after, according to the sheriff, Gazaway fired at them, so they took cover and SWAT was summoned. But he fired more shots at SWAT team members once they arrived.

Bullets hit an armored SWAT vehicle while SWAT officers were inside and a SWAT robot.

Over the next 30 hours, SWAT negotiators kept trying to communicate with Gazaway, tossing cell phones into the garage he mostly ignored, according to Jones.

Gazaway kept the boy "close"  the entire time, using him as "a tool" to prevent law enforcement from taking action to end the standoff, the sheriff told reporters during one of many briefings at the scene.

"We didn't think at times that we were going to get a good resolve from this. We felt that he wanted us to shoot him at different times," Jones said in a press conference Sunday

"But we could not do anything - we couldn't breach, we couldn't come in - because anything that he done, any movement he made, was always with that child."

Sincere said Tuesday he and Gazaway in a closet in the apartment when the standoff first began. Early Saturday morning, they moved into the backseat of a vehicle in a garage.

That's where they spent most of the time during the standoff.

They sat in the running vehicle with the heat on, the garage door open so the exhaust fumes didn't poison the air.

The SWAT team parked their armored vehicle behind the car, blocking Gazaway in.

Sincere said at first, in the beginning of the standoff, he felt like Gazaway wasn't going to let him go.

But when authorities delivered McDonald's meals to Sincere and Gazaway, Sincere said Gazaway gave him most of the food and water.

"I was a little bit scared but he made sure I felt comfortable and things like that," Sincere said. "He kept saying he was gonna let me go regardless."

Jones said the SWAT team listened as the boy cried, begged to be released and asked Gazaway why he was doing this to him.

But the gunman refused to let the small boy go, not even to allow him to use the bathroom, at least that they could see.

The wait dragged on so long, SWAT teams from West Chester and Hamilton arrived to relieve the sheriff's exhausted SWAT team. They worked nearly 24 hours straight in single digit temperatures.

Finally, the car ran out of gas before dawn Sunday.

Gazaway surrendered, holding the boy's body in front of his, using the child as a shield one final time.

He was immediately taken into custody and booked into the Butler County Jail on charges of kidnapping, felonious assault and inducing panic.

The SWAT team took Sincere to safety.

The sheriff released a photo Tuesday showing the boy in the first minutes after his release.

He sat with SWAT team members and ate a glazed doughnut.

Someone draped a fire coat around the pajama-clad child's shoulders to warm him.

Paramedics checked the boy over and determined he did not appear to be physically harmed by the ordeal.

Still, he was taken to a local hospital for observation as a precaution.

Gazaway, meanwhile, made his first court appearance Tuesday via video conference from the jail.

A judge set his bond at $1 million.

He is scheduled to return to court Wednesday for a preliminary hearing.

An investigation into the dispute in the apartment before the standoff remains under investigation.

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