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Armed mother holds cops at bay for 6-1/2 hours

A 35-year-old Chester County mother with a pistol, a rifle and a shotgun held authorities at bay for 6-1/2 hours at her home on Saturday, refusing to release two of her children until police ended the standoff early Sunday, police say.

West Caln Township Police Chief Curt A. Martinez said police had removed a gun from the same home during a search warrant stemming from a domestic disturbance call earlier this year, but Brazzilia V. Rutherford successfully petitioned the court to get it back.

"We had argued that the instability in that household made the gun especially dangerous," Martinez said.

He said police were called to the residence in the 200 block of Sandy Way at 7 p.m. Saturday for a domestic dispute and "possible barricaded subject." When officers arrived, they found Rutherford's husband, Rodney L. Rutherford, lying in the front yard with head injuries, Martinez said.

The husband told police his wife had pistol-whipped him and remained inside with two of the couple's three children, who range in age from 8 to 15, Martinez said. The third child, who returned home during the standoff, was intercepted by police.

After officers made several unsuccessful attempts to make contact with the occupants of the home, nearby residences were evacuated and others were requested to remain in their basements for their safety, Martinez said.

He said multiple police departments, including the Western Chester County Emergency Response Team and several ambulance and fire companies, assisted.

Negotiating officers eventually spoke with Brazzilia Rutherford, who repeatedly refused to let the children leave the residence, Martinez said. She was taken into custody without incident at 1:26 a.m. after officers forced open the door; Martinez said police recovered three weapons: a pistol, a rifle and a shotgun.

Rutherford was taken to Chester County Prison after failing to post $100,000 bail to await a preliminary hearing on Friday. She faces charges that include aggravated assault, possessing an instrument of crime, and endangering the welfare of children.

Her husband was released from Brandywine Hospital after being treated for his injuries, police said.

Chester County Assistant District Attorney Norm Pine said he was contacted by West Caln Police in April after officers learned that the .380 caliber Bersa pistol seized by police was going to be returned to Brazzilia Rutherford.

"After police gave me information that suggested this woman was a danger to herself and others, I filed a motion to vacate the order," Pine said. "I think the West Caln police should be lauded for calling me; they acted professionally and were concerned about public safety."

Pine said Rutherford was "pretty convincing" in assuring Chester County Court Senior Judge Charles B. Smith that "this won't happen again."

In May, Smith signed an order that the gun, which was legally owned by Rutherford, be returned to her.

In January 2009, Rutherford was found not guilty of a disorderly conduct charge stemming from a December 2008 incident in Caln Township, court records said.