Gwinnett officers reflect on firefighter hostage standoff

by: Kerry Kavanaugh Updated:

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SUWANEE, Ga. —

For the first time, Gwinnett County police officers are speaking out about getting the call that a gunman had taken five firefighters hostage.

The officers opened up to Channel 2's Kerry Kavanaugh about what they personally experienced Wednesday afternoon.

"When I got the command page I knew that if this is true, this is going to big," Cpl. Ed Ritter with the Gwinnett County Police Department said.

Five Gwinnett County firefighters responded to a routine medical call inside a Suwanee home on Walnut Grove Way, Wednesday afternoon.

"Firefighters are only ever there to help people," Cpl. Jake Smith with the Gwinnett County Police Department told Kavanaugh.

But they said Lauren Brown, 55, had no emergency. Instead, police said Brown lured the firefighters in to take them hostage at gunpoint.

"We don't get hostages in Gwinnett often, at all. I don't recall another incident with hostages in my eight years with the department. But we do train for it every single month," Smith said.

"We can't treat this any different than any other situation. But in your mind, you're thinking, 'These are family members,'" Ritter said.

Once on scene, Ritter's role was to keep the public informed. As a member of the SWAT team, Smith went to work finding out everything he could about Brown.

"It was a one-way flow of communications, of demands from him to us," Smith said.

The SWAT team negotiated with Brown for more than three hours, but they could not meet all of his demands. The officers said they knew at some point a team would have to go in.

"We heard what you heard," Smith said.

At about 7:30 p.m., an explosion erupted, followed by several gun shots.

"Obviously, the last sound that we as police officers want to hear is gunfire," Smith said.

An armored car then raced down the road. The officers said they held their breath until "I saw every one of them get out of that vehicle and they got out on their own," Ritter said.

Officers said the goal is always to end things peacefully, but they said considering the circumstances they faced, they know Wednesday's incident could have ended much worse.