Suspect Who Took Five Firefighters Hostage Had Planned It for Weeks, Say Police

PHOTO: Lauren Brown
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Authorities in north Georgia have identified the armed suspect who held five firefighters hostage at his home Wednesday and said the man claimed to have planned the event for weeks.

Lauren Holmes Brown, 55, held the firefighters captive at his Suwanee home for hours as he rattled off a list of demands, including the restoration of his power, cellphone, cable and Internet services.

Brown was shot and killed by SWAT officers who stormed his home. All five Gwinnett County firefighters were released from the hospital after they were treated for what police said were "superficial" injuries.

Gwinnett County Cpl. Edwin Ritter said Brown was "authorized" to live in his home at the time of the hostage-taking, but it had been foreclosed, and he was going to be evicted soon. According to police, officers contacted the utility companies and learned that all of the accounts had been deactivated because of unpaid bills.

When asked how Brown managed to call 911, Ritter said the investigation was continuing.

According to property tax records, the one-story home, located in the well-kept Walnut Grove neighborhood, became a bank-owned repossession last November.

Gwinnett County firefighters responded Wednesday to what they believed was a routine medical emergency call at 3:41 p.m. Firefighters in Gwinnett County are also trained as paramedics.

When they arrived, the firefighters found Brown in his bedroom alone in bed. He "seemed to be suffering from a condition that restricted his movement," according to police.

Brown then produced a handgun and held the five firefighters hostage in his bedroom, telling them to gather chairs, rope and tape to tie themselves up, police said. It was then that the firefighters notified their dispatch that they'd been taken hostage.

The hostages later told police that Brown said he had been planning the hostage-taking for "several weeks" and had targeted firefighters rather than police so that "he would not be shot when he attempted to take hostages."

Brown had a total of six guns in his house, which Ritter said were a combination of pistols, handguns and rifles.

Over the course of several hours of negotiations, police said Brown also demanded that officers bring him wood and tools so he could board up his windows. He even demanded that food be delivered to him and the hostages.

One of the firefighters was released because the suspect wanted the fire truck moved away from the house.

At about 7:30 p.m., Ritter said rescue and SWAT teams made the decision to move in to rescue the remaining hostages because "it got to a point where we believed their [the firefighters] lives were in immediate danger."

First, a SWAT officer pretended to deliver food to the door, and Brown allowed two of the four remaining firefighters to leave the bedroom to retrieve it, police said.

Rescue teams and a SWAT then set off a "flash bang" inside the house to distract Brown. The two hostages who had been allowed to leave the bedroom were immediately evacuated. SWAT officers then stormed the house and demanded that Brown surrender, police said. Brown then opened fire, hitting one officer in the left forearm.

That injured officer shot and killed Brown in his bedroom. No other officers fired their weapons, police said. The other two remaining hostages took cover in the bedroom and suffered minor injuries.

The injured SWAT officer was transported to Gwinnett Medical Center, where he underwent surgery, but his injury is not considered life-threatening.

Ritter said the gun's caliber, which weapons Brown used in the firefight and his past medical history were still unclear at this time. Brown was arrested in 2010 for failing to appear in court after he was ticketed for striking a parked car.

"We are still knee-deep into this investigation," Ritter said.

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