• Gwinnett firefighters describe hostage situation

    By: Carl Willis


    GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - Five Gwinnett County firefighters taken as hostages shared the tense moments inside a Suwanee home.

    A Gwinnett County SWAT team rescued the fire crew and killed hostage-taker Lauren Brown on April 10.

    On Tuesday, Gwinnett County police released the 911 call that set the standoff in motion.

    "What is your emergency?" asked a 911 operator.

    "Chest pains," Brown answered.

    He rattled off a round of short yes and no answers in his plot to get firefighters to his home.

    "My personal opinion was he wanted to board the house up, kill us, set the house on fire, shoot himself," said firefighter Tim Hollingsworth. He was in charge of the crew at the house.

    He said Brown revealed that he had been planning the standoff for four to six weeks, and targeted firefighters because he knew they would be unarmed.

    Still, Hollingsworth said Brown made them remove their shirts to prove they did not have weapons.

    Firefighter Jody Moss said the medical call took a deadly turn as soon as he entered with the stretcher.

    "(Brown said) 'I hate to do this, but now for the real reason you're here,' and that's when he pulled the pistol out," Moss said.

    Moss, a former military man, said his instincts kicked in.

    "My next thought was, how was I going to get between him and the pistol," he said. "At that time, we thought he only had one pistol, then he pulled the covers back -- he had two more what looked like six-shot .380 revolvers."

    Moss was eventually the one who was allowed to leave the home to move the fire engine parked outside.

    Brown made demands to have his power, cellphone and Internet and cable service restored.

    The hostages, including Jason Schuon, Chip Echols and Sidney Garner, said Brown desperately wanted to see the coverage on television.

    Schuon outsmarted him and stalled Brown's plans by disconnecting the cable box.

    "We outfoxed the fox," said Hollingsworth.

    Brown never left the bed.

    The firefighters said fear of a bomb kept them from trying to go for the gun.

    "The way he was laying in the bed and the comments he made, we didn't know if there was a trigger," said Hollingsworth. "He did make a comment that people weren't going to believe how well he planned it."

    "He said he had surprises outside and surprises if people tried to come in," said Garner. "So, like Tim said, it made us think what he had up under him."

    The men spent hours trying to lighten the mood and put Brown at ease, even after they found rope and chairs stashed in his bathroom.

    "I tried to remind him that we all had wives and girlfriends and I told him later on I'm trying to get engaged," said Echols.

    The crew said Brown was agitated and delusional and complained about financial and family problems.

    "He wanted certain people to see what was happening so they would live the rest of their lives with guilt," said Hollingsworth, declining to explain identify who Brown was talking about.

    During one of the lighter moments, the crew asked for coffee and Brown allowed Hollingsworth and others to leave his bedroom to make a pot.

    The crew used those times away from him to form a strategy and get the floor plan of the home.

    Soon, concussion grenades were thrown into the home and a SWAT team opened fire, killing Brown.

    Police said Brown shot Sgt. Jason Teague in the forearm during the exchange. Teague is expected to make a full recovery.

    No explosives were found in the home.

    Channel 2's Carl Willis asked Hollingsworth if he thinks things would have been different if his fire crew had been armed.

    "I'm ex-law enforcement, but you probably know my position," he said.

    "I do think the way society has become, more and more people will be carrying, more people will be buying," said Hollingsworth. "I think it's an issue that will be discussed on a bigger forum."

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