Police Kill Gunman Holding 4 Firefighters Hostage

8:38 PM, Apr 10, 2013   |    comments
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Michael Winter and Larry Copeland, USA TODAY

SUWANEE, Ga. - Police stormed a suburban Atlanta home Wednesday evening and killed a gunman who had held four firefighters hostage since mid-afternoon.

One police officer was slightly wounded in the exchange of gunfire about 7:30 p.m. when a SWAT team rushed into the home, which was in foreclosure and being prepared for sale.

The firefighters, who were seized while answering a 911 call for a medical emergency, suffered superficial injuries when officers detonated a flash-bang grenade as they entered, said Gwinnett County Police Cpl. Edwin Ritter.

The unidentified gunman was facing eviction and wanted the power and cable TV turned back on, he said.

"The SWAT team commander believed their lives were in immediate danger and it was the time to go in there," Ritter said. "It's an unfortunate circumstance. We did not want this to end this way, but with the decisions this guy was making, this was his demise."

An explosion was heard about 7:35 p.m., followed by several gunshots. The wounded officer was shot in an arm or hand, Ritter said.

The hostage drama began about 3:40 p.m when five firefighters responded to "routine medical call," Ritter said, without elaborating. The gunman allowed one firefighter to leave so he could move the firetruck.
At an afternoon news briefing, Ritter said that police "have a good idea why" the gunman seized the firefighters, but "I'm not going to go into any details about it."

A sheriff's deputy said the gunman was upset that the house was in foreclosure, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The house at 2440 Walnut Grove Way is a bank-owned repossession, public records show.

A FreddieMac spokesman told WSB-TV, Atlanta, that the property was being prepared for sale but was not yet on the market.

The house was being rented when the government lender foreclosed, but the spokesman did not know whether the renter was still in the house.

SWAT officers had surrounded the house, and negotiators were communicating with the gunman, Ritter said.

Fire Capt. Tommy Rutledge said one engine and an ambulance responded to the initial 911 call from a nearby station in Suwanee, about 35 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta.
"They arrived at the scene. They went in and began to do what they do every day when they were taken hostage," he said.

The man called 911 to say he was having a heart attack, unidentified fire officials told WSB-TV.

The firefighters who responded are cross-trained as emergency medical technicians.

Police blocked off the neighborhood, preventing some residents from returning home. News helicopters were asked to stay clear of the airspace above the scene.

The subdivision is across the street from a high school, which is closed this week for spring break. A nearby elementary school is also on break.


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