A man in apparent financial distress in Gwinnett County, Ga., about 30 miles outside of Atlanta, was killed by police yesterday after he held four firefighters hostage for hours inside his home, which was in foreclosure.
In comments to reporters, Gwinnett County police spokesman Ed Ritter declined to give details about the events in the home in Suwanee and whether the suspect died as a result of gunshots by law enforcement or a self-inflicted wound.
“This is the result of his actions,” Ritter said. “We didn’t want it this way but he was calling the shots, and this was the end result.”
The firefighters responded to a call from someone saying there was a medical emergency in the home. When they arrived they discovered it was a ruse by the unidentified man, who then demanded his power, cable television and cell phone service be restored, Ritter said.
“He wanted all those things turned back on,” Ritter said. “That’s why he was holding them hostage.”
When authorities grew concerned that he might injure the firefighters, they decided to move in.
“It got to the point where we believed that (the firefighters’) lives were in immediate danger,” Ritter said Wednesday night. “And our SWAT team made the decision to go in there and neutralize the situation.”
The firefighters suffered “superficial” injuries after authorities used explosives “to distract the suspect to get in the house and take care of business,” Ritter explained. The injuries were the result of the explosions, not gunfire. They were expected to return home at night’s end.
A law enforcement officer was shot, but Ritter said his injury is not life-threatening. Everyone involved in the incident, including officer, was in good condition at Gwinnett Medical Center, according to hospital spokeswoman Beth Okun said.
“They are simply relieved that the situation is over,” said Gwinnett County Fire Department spokesman Thomas Rutledge. “The firefighters are glad to be getting treated … and really work on getting their lives back to normal.
“The house had been foreclosed upon in November and was being prepared for sale, according to Brad German, a spokesman for Freddie Mac.
Jake Major, an 18-year-old neighbor who used to mow the alleged hostage-taker’s lawn, told reporters the man seemed “really nice, … like a normal guy.” His yard, though, “was a mess (and) inside it was just as bad,” Major said.
After explosions at about 7:30 p.m. and ambulances rushed away from the scene, neighbor Wesley Gossan, who lived two doors down, said: “Thirty seconds later, I knew everything was OK because the (firefighters) walked out, they took their hard hats off.”