(ATLANTA) — An armed gunman who was holding four firefighters hostage in a north Georgia home is dead, authorities said Wednesday evening.
After hours of negotiations, Gwinnett County Cpl. Edwin Ritter said a SWAT team, along with police officers, set off an explosion inside the house in Suwanee, Ga., where the armed suspect was holding the firefighters hostage, to distract him. They then stormed the home and exchanged gunfire with the suspect, whom police are not identifying.
“The suspect is deceased,” Ritter said.
The four firefighters who were rescued inside the home suffered “superficial wounds from the explosion,” Ritter said, but nothing serious, and they all will be “going home to their families.”
One SWAT officer was shot on either his hand or his arm, Ritter said, and was transported to a local hospital, but his injury is not life-threatening.
Gwinnett County police Wednesday said county firefighters responded to what they thought was a routine medical emergency call for a heart attack around 5 p.m. at the home, when an armed suspect took five firefighters hostage. One of the firefighters was then let go because the suspect wanted the fire truck moved, Ritter said.
Local officials and SWAT made “several communications” with the suspect Wednesday afternoon and even brought him food, Ritter said. The suspect was demanding to have his cellphone, power and cable service turned back on and was holding the firefighters hostage until those utilities were restored.
Television helicopter footage showed police and fire trucks surrounding the well-kept Walnut Groove neighborhood, located about 35 miles northeast of Atlanta. Residents were not being allowed into their homes in the area of the hostage situation.
Ritter said they decided to move in on the suspect because “it got to a point where we believed their [the firefighters’] lives were immediate danger.”
“We are still deep into this investigation,” he said.
Police are not releasing the names or identities of the suspect nor the firefighters, or what sort of weapons the suspect had with him inside the home.
One fire engine and one ambulance responded to the home when the call came in, according to Gwinnett County Fire Capt. Tommy Rutledge. Once inside, firefighters notified their dispatch they were being held hostage.
Firefighters in Gwinnett County are also trained to provide medical care.
“These are firefighters who are cross-trained as emergency medical technicians, as paramedics,” Rutledge said.
When there is the potential for violence, firefighters will normally wait for police to arrive, but there was “no indication that this call was anything other than a typical medical emergency,” Rutledge said.
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