Michael Winter and Larry Copeland, USA TODAY
- Five firefighters initially were held at gunpoint
- The house is a bank-owned repossession
- One police officer slightly wounded in exchange of gunfire
SUWANEE, Ga. - The man who was killed by a SWAT team after police said he held five firefighters hostage at his home was identified by authorities Thursday as Lauren Holman Brown, 55, resident of the home for more than 10 years.
The house is a bank-owned repossession, public records show.
One police officer was slightly wounded in the exchange of gunfire about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday when a SWAT team rushed into the home, which was in foreclosure and being prepared for sale.
The firefighters, who were seized while answering a 911 call for a medical emergency, suffered superficial injuries when officers detonated a flash-bang grenade as they entered, said Gwinnett County police Cpl. Edwin Ritter.
A spokeswoman for Gwinnett Medical Center said five firefighters and a police officer were treated at the hospital; all had been released Thursday morning.
Brown was facing eviction and wanted the power and cable TV turned back on, Ritter said.
"The SWAT team commander believed their lives were in immediate danger and it was the time to go in there," Ritter said. "It's an unfortunate circumstance. We did not want this to end this way, but with the decisions this guy was making, this was his demise."
The hostage drama began about 3:40 p.m. when five firefighters responded to "routine medical call," Ritter said, without elaborating. The gunman allowed one firefighter to leave so he could move the firetruck.
According to property tax records, the home where the firefighters were held hostage was foreclosed on last November. After the house was foreclosed on, the mortgage switched hands from Wells Fargo to Freddie Mac.
The house was being rented when it was foreclosed, but the FreddieMac spokesman did not know whether the renter was still in the house.
Fire Capt. Tommy Rutledge said one engine and an ambulance responded to the initial 911 call from a nearby station in Suwanee, about 35 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta.
"They arrived at the scene. They went in and began to do what they do every day when they were taken hostage," he said.
The firefighters who responded were cross-trained as emergency medical technicians.
Police blocked off the neighborhood, preventing some residents from returning home. News helicopters were asked to stay clear of the airspace above the scene.
The subdivision is across the street from a high school, which is closed this week for spring break. A nearby elementary school is also on break.
It's rare for firefighters to be taken hostage, said Larry Barton, a management professor at the American College in Bryn Mawr, Pa., and an instructor in threat assessment at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va.
"I struggled when I heard the news to identify a single case in the past three decades in which firefighters have been held hostage," he said.
"I think one of the reasons why is that when you look at respect for the professions, respect for two professions are usually right at the top in public opinion polls," explained Barton, who has researched more than 2,800 incidents of violence in public spaces, schools and businesses. "The first is nursing, but firefighting typically is second or third. They are generally seen as neutral. Because they are the first-responders, very few people usually get upset with them."
On Christmas Eve near Rochester, N.Y., two volunteer fighters were slain and two others wounded when they were ambushed by an ex-convict who had set to his home on the shore of Lake Ontario.
The gunman, 62-year-old William Spengler, killed himself after the shooting spree, which kept firefighters at bay until police arrived. Seven homes were eventually destroyed.
Spengler served 17 years in a New York State prison for beating his grandmother to death with a hammer in 1980.
Contributing: John Bacon; WXIA-TV, Atlanta