• Gunman in firefighter hostage standoff ID'd


    GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - Channel 2 Action News has confirmed the identity of the man who held five firefighters hostage Wednesday afternoon as Lauren Holman Brown.

    All five Gwinnett County firefighters who were held hostage Wednesday afternoon have been released from the hospital after being treated for superficial shrapnel injuries.

    Fire officials said just before 5 p.m. Wednesday, an unidentified man faked having a heart attack to draw the firefighters to his home at 2440 Walnut Grove Way, near Collins Hill and Taylor roads. The neighborhood is across from Walnut Grove Elementary School off Interstate 85.   

    It is unclear what motivated the gunman to hold the firefighters hostage.

    One of the firefighters was released early on, but four more remained inside the home.

    Channel 2 Action News obtained radio transmissions from inside the home while the hostage situation was going on.

    "(He has) multiple guns, multiple rifles," the firefighter said. "We're in a situation where we have an armed person and he is requesting certain utilities to be turned back on at his house. He is armed and we are in the room with him.”

    Channel 2’s Kerry Kavanaugh said several Gwinnett County SWAT officers were already at the home when she arrived just after 5 p.m.

    For several hours, the man in the home demanded that his utilities be turned back on. A Freddie Mac spokesperson confirmed that the home is in foreclosure and being prepped for sale.

    Around 7:30 p.m., police decided to send in SWAT officers.

    "It got to the point where we believed that their lives were in immediate danger and our SWAT team made a decision to go in there and neutralize the situation," Cpl. Ed Ritter of the Gwinnett County Police Department said.

    SWAT officers used flash-bang, or concussion grenades, to catch the gunman off-guard as they entered the home.

    A source told Kavanaugh that the SWAT officers used a breaching charge, which was designed to breach the window, wall and door of the home. The source said the damage to the home was intended, and officers knew where the firefighters were located inside the home at the time of the explosion.

    The goal of the blast was to disorient and distract the gunman.

    Officials said gunfire was exchanged, but it is unclear if the man shot himself, or if he was killed by officers.

    One of the officers was shot in the hand, but officials told Kavanaugh he is in good condition.

    The firefighters involved were called to the home because they are cross-trained as emergency medical technicians, Gwinnett Fire Capt. Tommy Rutledge told Kavanaugh.

    "This was a typical emergency response, no indication that anything would go wrong, and firefighters went in with their multiple equipment to perform patient care and meet the need of the person who is inside," he said.

    Rutledge said the department is relieved that everyone involved escaped safely.

    "In talking to firefighters and their families, they are relieved, simply relieved, that situation is over, that family members (are) with them," Rutledge said.

    The identities of the firefighters have not been released.

    Officers are expected to return to the home on Thursday to continue their investigation.

    Firefighters leave hospital

    As of late Wednesday night, all of the firefighters had been released from Gwinnett Medical Center in Lawrenceville. Officials said the officer who was shot is in good condition.

    Channel 2's Craig Lucie arrived at the hospital shortly after the firefighters were released late Wednesday night and found a large number of firefighters and police starting to gather.

    A Gwinnett County fire truck was parked in front of the Gwinnett Medical Center emergency room where police continued to stand by late Wednesday night.

    A hospital spokesperson couldn't say by law what the extent of the firefighters' injuries were, but did say all five firefighters and a Gwinnett County police officer who was shot, were in good condition.

    "We are staffed with trauma surgeons and appropriate staff to handle emergencies such as these. We followed emergency protocol and the plan went accordingly," Gwinnett Medical Center spokeswoman Beth Okun said.

    "Those firefighters again had superficial injuries, not from gunfire, due to shrapnel being detonated," Rutledge said.

    As the scene unfolded, Lucie stopped by several fire stations, including Fire Station 13, where their fire trucks were gone. A firefighter at another station told Lucie that they were watching everything unfold live on TV.

    "Certainly every firehouse, every firefighter off duty, command staff members, everyone was glued to the coverage," Rutledge said.

    Rutledge said the firefighters would also meet with the critical incident stress management team since this was an extremely emotional and tense situation for a couple of hours.

    More on the gunman

    As the hostage drama unfolded, Channel 2 Action News started digging into the history of the home and the man believed to be the hostage taker.

    Channel 2 identified the gunman Wednesday evening, but refrained from identifying him until his name was confirmed by police.

    While motive remains unclear, Channel 2's Richard Elliot learned the home itself was in foreclosure. Freddie Mac spokesman Brad German confirmed the home was owned first by Wells Fargo and then sold to Freddie Mac.

    Elliot confirmed there was renter living inside and apparently, the man had his utilities turned off.

    Neighbors react to hostage situation

    Neighbor Steven Hayes said he thought his wife, who was home with their two young kids, was joking when she told him their neighborhood was filled with law enforcement cars.

    "She told me when I was at work that a bunch of cops were coming and the SWAT was outside. At first I didn't believe her. I thought it was a prank until she sent me some pictures and they just kept showing up. The whole neighborhood is just full of SWAT and cops right now," Hayes said.

    Channel 2's Richard Elliot spoke to a resident near the front entrance of the neighborhood. Jake Major said his mother, who was supposed to pick him up from work, was stuck inside their home.

    "She was supposed to be at my job at 4:30 to pick me up," Major said.

    He said she called him back to tell him that she couldn't leave because of the SWAT situation.

    "Her and my three brothers are there and the handyman (is) there. Can't nobody get out," Major said. "She said (officers) were going door to door telling everybody they can't leave the house right now."

    Major told Elliot his neighbor seemed odd, but not out of the ordinary.

    "I mean, I cut his grass maybe three, four times, but nothing out of the ordinary, I would say. I mean, he had long hair and a ponytail, but I mean, nothing out of the ordinary," Major told Elliot. "Very messy house. House was a mess. I do remember that."

    Police restricted people from entering the neighborhood during the ordeal.

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