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Feds intensify search for siblings accused of shooting at Zephyrhills officer, robbing Valdosta bank

All the photos on her Flickr page are of herself. In most of them, Lee-Grace Dougherty — fugitive, dancer, alleged bank robber — is half naked and posing. She offers a short introduction:

"I love to farm and shoot guys and wreck cars. I'm a redneck and proud of it," Dougherty proclaims on her Flickr profile. "I like milk and German engineering and causing mayhem with my siblings."

Authorities are still searching for Dougherty, 29, and her brothers, Ryan Edward Dougherty, 21, and Dylan Dougherty Stanley, 26. They are suspected of firing at least 20 rounds at a Zephyrhills police officer Tuesday then robbing a bank at gunpoint several hours later in Valdosta, Ga. Now the FBI is teaming with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office and other law enforcement agencies to hunt them down.

"We've classified them as armed and dangerous, and we feel wholeheartedly that is the case," said Special Agent Stephen Emmett of the FBI. "That is the reason you're seeing this effort by law enforcement to get them into custody."

The FBI hopes to soon expand its digital billboards alerting the public of the case to throughout the southeastern United States, Emmett said.

"We know who they are. We know what they've done. We are concerned about what they might do. And we are urging the public — including any family members or acquaintances — to turn these individuals in if they have any information on their whereabouts," Emmett said.

Their mother, Barbara Bell, told the Associated Press that she loves her daughter and two sons and hopes they give up before someone gets hurt.

Authorities say the siblings have been living in the northeast Pasco town of Lacoochee for the past three years. But the family is from east central Florida. Lee-Grace Dougherty's Flickr profile says she was "born and raised in Seminole County," and her MySpace profile puts her on Merritt Island.

The oldest of the kids, Lee-Grace was 14 when her father, William Dougherty, passed away in 1996. Ryan was 7. The father's obituary listed a fourth child, Erin Suzanne Dougherty. Records indicate she died of natural causes four years ago at 23.

Dylan Dougherty Stanley has largely stayed out of trouble: His only arrest was a 2008 charge for possession of marijuana.

But Lee-Grace Dougherty landed in jail a few times over the years for battery charges. On May 7, she was arrested in Brevard County on charges of driving under the influence and battery on a law enforcement officer. Ten days later, she was charged with leaving the scene of a hit-and-run accident.

The youngest, Ryan Dougherty, saw his first arrest at age 15, when he was charged with disrupting a school function in Flagler County. His later arrests included battery, burglary, destroying evidence and possession of methamphetamine.

Authorities say Tuesday's incident may be rooted in Ryan Dougherty's most recent conviction — as a sexual offender.

He was 19 when he was charged with lewd and lascivious conduct and transmission of harmful materials to minors after an 11-year-old girl's mother found sexually explicit text messages on her daughter's cell phone.

Between May and June of 2009, Dougherty and the girl exchanged 376 text messages and phone calls, according to court documents in Volusia County.

Dougherty was sentenced Monday to two years of community control and 10 years of probation. He was ordered to wear a monitoring bracelet.

On Tuesday morning, probation officers received signals indicating the monitor had been removed. They contacted Ryan Dougherty's girlfriend, who said the siblings left overnight, taking her 2006 white Subaru Impreza.

Shortly after 7 a.m. Tuesday, authorities say, the siblings fired shots at a Zephyrhills police officer who tried to pull them over for speeding. Less than six hours later, the FBI said, the trio stormed into a CertusBank in Valdosta, Ga. Armed with an AK-47-type assault rifle and a machine pistol, the robbers fired two shots into the ceiling. The robbers all wore masks, hats, long-sleeved shirts and pants.

Maj. Brian Childress of the Valdosta Police Department said this is the first bank robbery in Valdosta in two years. His agency is working with the Pasco Sheriff's Office, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to locate the siblings.

"Although we continue to seek a peaceful resolution, the actions of the Dougherty family prove this will end otherwise," Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said Friday.

"I ask that everyone pray for the law enforcement officers who will eventually engage these suspects, for they will have to do everything possible to ensure that the Doughertys' violent rampage comes to an end," Nocco said.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report.

Feds intensify search for siblings accused of shooting at Zephyrhills officer, robbing Valdosta bank 08/05/11 [Last modified: Friday, August 5, 2011 11:34pm]
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