Firefighters rescued, suspect dead in standoff

SUWANEE — A man who took five Gwinnett firefighters hostage and demanded that his power and utilities be turned on died Wednesday evening following a loud explosion and an exchange of gunfire with members of a SWAT team.

The incident one Gwinnett Fire official said hadn’t happened in the county in at least 25 years, if ever, took place in a quiet neighborhood across from Collins Hill High School where several residents exercised and walked their dogs. The scene quickly escalated after firefighters were called to the house at 2440 Walnut Grove Way at 3:41 p.m.

The standoff ended at about 7:30 p.m. with the explosion that was loud enough to set off at least one car alarm and subsequent gunfire.

Gwinnett Police Cpl. Ed Ritter said it was unknown if the suspect was shot by officers or took his own life. Ritter said the explosion was designed to surprise the suspect and distract him so officers could enter the house.

“It got to the point where we believed that their lives were in immediate danger,” Ritter said, “and our SWAT team made the decision to go in there and neutralize the situation.”

Ritter said one officer suffered an injury to a hand or arm, and the firefighters suffered superficial wounds, from the explosion.

“They’re going to be going home tonight,” Ritter said. “The officer, we’re going to check and make sure he’s OK and he’ll be going home as well.”

Gwinnett Medical Center spokeswoman Beth Okun said a couple of the firefighters were released by 9:40 p.m., and she anticipated the remaining firefighters and police officer would be released later Wednesday evening. The officer was in good condition, she said.

Property tax records showed that the home was foreclosed in November. Wells Fargo purchased the home and the loan was turned over to Fannie Mae.

Rutledge said upon the firefighters’ arrival that there was no indication or any reason to believe there was a violent situation or any unrest. But shortly after they arrived, the 911 call made for an apparent heart attack, developed into a hostage situation in which the firefighters were barricaded.

One fire engine and one ambulance arrived for the medical call, and one firefighter was cleared to leave by the suspect to move the firetruck.

Then hostage negotiators began communicating with the man.

“He started making demands,” said Ritter, who added the man was given food during negotiations. “These demands were to have his power turned back on. Apparently he’s going through some financial issues and the power and cable and cellphone were all turned off, and he wanted those things turned on.”

A neighbor who lives four or five houses from where the incident took place said his fiancee and two children, an 8-month-old daughter and 3-year-old son, were inside their house where police officers used the bathroom and charged cellphones.

“We’ve never had anything happen in this neighborhood,” said Steven Hayes, who moved to the area eight months ago. “It’s always calm.”

Residents like Hayes were prevented from entering the Walnut Grove at Ridgeland subdivision. Ritter said an “immediate area” around the house was evacuated, but he didn’t know how many houses that included.

Rutledge said firefighters are cross-trained as emergency medical responders, and a medical call is a routine.

“It’s an incident people in public safety train for but hope never comes,” Rutledge said. “Tonight it did.”


Why_not says...

Praying for a safe outcome to this situation.

Posted 10 April 2013, 5:02 p.m. Suggest removal

itsfriday says...

Praying for the firefighters & police officers.

Posted 10 April 2013, 6:14 p.m. Suggest removal

pcjohn says...

With dynamite, flash grenades, huge bulletproof vests and automatic weapons in the hands of a horde of guys, you don't need many prayers.

Posted 11 April 2013, 11:33 p.m. Suggest removal

Why_not says...

Pcjohn, we know you are a cop hater.......

Posted 13 April 2013, 8:35 a.m. Suggest removal

pcjohn says...

And we know Why_not is a cop, isn't she/he? I think most people know that cops don't like it when someone questions their methods, results, or anything else they do. So they go to the extreme and call you a "cop hater". Well, there are equally disparaging words that can be used to insult cops. I won't use them here, but I think they might apply to you.

Posted 13 April 2013, 11:36 a.m. Suggest removal

Why_not says...

No I am not a cop.....I am retired from Gwinnett Fire.

Posted 13 April 2013, 7:38 p.m. Suggest removal

Why_not says...

Thank you God for protecting my Brothers......and for giving GCPD SWAT the means to bring this to an end.

Posted 10 April 2013, 8:10 p.m. Suggest removal

SuxBeanU says...

unfortunately as financial situations worsen, there will probably be more incidents like this one, as the saying goes, desprate men do desperate things. How sad for all involved.

Posted 11 April 2013, 11:04 a.m. Suggest removal

notblind says...

I had the same thoughts. Old white people are being demonized in the liberal press and face the prospect of getting cheated out of the various programs they have paid into for their whole lives plus having the government eying their retirement savings. Job prospects suck because of government bias towards foreigners. Bitterness over the direction of the country in general. Yep, lots to look forward to.

Posted 11 April 2013, 1:26 p.m. Suggest removal

Why_not says...

Once again right-wing wackos take a totally non-political story and turn it into something political.....pathetic. Did you ever stop to think how disastrous this could have been for those firefighters?

Posted 11 April 2013, 4:30 p.m. Suggest removal

notblind says...

:Rolleyes: So our current economy had nothing to do with this guy being able to pay his bills ? Protecting the chosen one once again.

Posted 11 April 2013, 5:10 p.m. Suggest removal

Why_not says...

Wrong....this has nothing to do with anything other than being thankful my friends got thru this ok.

Posted 11 April 2013, 7:51 p.m. Suggest removal

pcjohn says...

How the he## could they have not come through OK? They had overwhelming force, dynamite, flash grenades and automatic weapons. By the time they entered they faced a disoriented, shell-shocked guy and they killed him. By the way, if he really wanted to kill the firemen he had over three hours in which to do so. And he didn't.

Posted 12 April 2013, 4:21 p.m. Suggest removal

Why_not says...

There have been many hostage situations that lasted much longer than this and ended in the deaths and/or injuries of the hostages. It's obvious from the history of your posts that you will almost always have things to say against the police....sad, pathetic, and disgusting.

Posted 13 April 2013, 10:16 a.m. Suggest removal

pcjohn says...

Did you read what I said? Was it too difficult for your mind to grasp? Nothing I said was against the cops, it was an attempt to compare your puffed up rhetoric to the true reality of the situation. Employing military combat exercises against a civilian domicile is pretty much a one-sided affair, isn't it?

Posted 13 April 2013, 11:27 a.m. Suggest removal

Why_not says...

Puffed up rhetoric? You sound like a real fool now. Storming a house with five people inside and only one being the bad guy, anything could have happened. Thank God it didn't. All anyone has to do is read your comment history to see where you stand concerning law enforcement.

Posted 13 April 2013, 12:35 p.m. Suggest removal

pcjohn says...

"Anything could have happened. Thank God it didn't". So, two houses were partially destroyed, one cop was shot (by whom is not yet known), four firemen were injured and one man was killed. Is that your idea of "anything didn't happen"? And, fool, you still do NOT know my stand on law enforcement because you view anything other than glowing praise as being a cop-hater. I also note that you only call names rather than address my factual points. You're a cop, alright.

Posted 13 April 2013, 1:22 p.m. Suggest removal

Why_not says...

By anything, I meant severe injuries or death involving the firefighters. The hostage taker made the firefighters change out of their uniforms and into his regular clothing so it would be more difficult for him to be yes, it could very easily been much worse. This was obviously planned well ahead of time and could have gone downhill very easily.

Posted 13 April 2013, 7:49 p.m. Suggest removal

pcjohn says...

And it went downhill as soon as the police decided to storm the house.

Posted 14 April 2013, 9:06 a.m. Suggest removal

Veryconcernedcitizen says...

Bad guy dead, all the hostages safe, and one police officer with a minor gunshot wound? That's better than Hollywood's best movie script. I'm glad I live in Gwinnett where they have competent public safety.

Posted 11 April 2013, 2:24 p.m. Suggest removal

notblind says...

There's no such thing as a minor gunshot wound. The officer could be facing limited or loss of use of his hand.

Posted 13 April 2013, 9:26 a.m. Suggest removal

FordGalaxy says...

pcjohn - at the risk of opening an ugly can of worms...what would you have preferred the police do? The man had taken four firefighters hostage. I'll own up to the fact that I don't like having different laws governing assault on public officials versus private citizens. But I would hope the police react the same for private citizens as they do for firefighters or anyone else. Should the cops have continued talking to the guy? As pointed out earlier, there is no guarantee of hostage safety the longer a situation goes. Should the cops have gone in one at a time and tried to take him out, as opposed to storming the house as they did.
You've called out people for not refuting your points, yet you simply decry the police for their use of force without pointing out what you think they should've done.

Posted 13 April 2013, 9:50 p.m. Suggest removal

pcjohn says...

Pull back all the heavily armed cops to try to calm the guy down. Then talk to him until he tires out. There is nothing to lose by doing so and everything to gain. I doubt this guy wanted to kill the firemen, he certainly had plenty of opportunity to do so in the 3 hours he had them there. He was a frustrated guy who lost control and wanted to make some kind of statement or protest. What he did was totally wrong but the outcome was more horrible than the original threat. I'm not sure he ever stated that he wanted to kill anyone.

Posted 13 April 2013, 10:59 p.m. Suggest removal

Why_not says...

He made his statement and wrote his own destiny........Hopefully, others will think twice before ever attempting something like this again.

Posted 14 April 2013, 12:15 a.m. Suggest removal

pcjohn says...

Exactly WHAT statement are you alluding to? And where did he "write his own destiny"? Or are you just making up statements to support your ideas?

I don't think anyone will learn from this event. I believe that almost every citizen, like myself, has a reverence for firefighters. They are the only true heroes in America; the men and women who risk their lives continually in an effort to always help the population. When you see them coming you are relieved since you know they are there to help you

Posted 14 April 2013, 9:14 a.m. Suggest removal

Why_not says...

When he took hostages and held them at gunpoint he chose a dangerous path at that point. maybe he had no intentions of harming anyone, but no one can peer into the mind and determine the motives or predict the outcome. He offered nothing but demands and never made any concessions whatsoever. As horrific as it was that someone lost their life, he was acting on his own free will....and put many others in danger. What should have happened did...period.

Posted 14 April 2013, 1:13 p.m. Suggest removal