|SWAT Team Saves Firefighters Held Hostage|
|By LAUREN EFFRON (@leffron831)||Apr 10, 2013, 5:43 PM|
An armed gunman who was holding four firefighters hostage in a north Georgia home is dead, authorities said.
After a few hours of negotiations, Gwinnett County Cpl. Edwin Ritter today said a SWAT team set off an explosion inside the house in Suwanee, Ga., where the armed suspect was holding the firefighters captive to distract him. They then stormed the home and exchanged gunfire with the suspect, whom police are not identifying.
"The suspect is deceased," Ritter said.
The four firefighters who were rescued inside the home suffered "superficial wounds from the explosion," Ritter said, but nothing serious, and "everyone is going to go home."
One SWAT officer was shot on either his hand or his arm, Ritter said, and was transported to a local hospital, but his injury is not life-threatening.
Gwinnett County police today said county firefighters responded to what they thought was a routine medical emergency call for either a faked heart attack or other medical condition, Ritter said. When they arrived at the home, an armed suspect took five firefighters hostage.
One of the firefighters was let go because the suspect wanted the fire truck moved away from the house, Ritter said.
Local authorities and SWAT officials made "several communications" with the suspect this afternoon and even brought him food, Ritter said. The suspect was demanding to have his cellphone, power, cable service and other utilities turned back on and was holding the firefighters hostage until those utlitites were restored.
Ritter said they decided to move in on the suspect because "it got to a point where we believed their [the firefighters] lives were immediate danger."
"We are still deep into this investigation," he said.
Police are not releasing the names or identities of the suspect nor of the firefighters, or what sort of weapons the suspect had with him inside the home.
One fire engine and one ambulance responded to the home when the call came in at around 5 p.m. this afternoon, according to Gwinnett County Fire Capt. Tommy Rutledge. Once inside, firefighters notified their dispatch they were being held hostage.
Firefighters in Gwinnett County are also trained to provide medical care.
"These are firefighters who are cross-trained as emergency medical technicians, as paramedics," Rutledge said.
When there is the potential for violence, firefighters will normally wait for police to arrive, but there was "no indication that this call was anything other than a typical medical emergency," Rutledge said.
Television helicopter footage showed police and fire trucks surrounding the well-kept Walnut Groove neighborhood, located about 35 miles northeast of Atlanta. Residents were not being allowed into their homes in the area of the hostage situation.