Gwinnett County, Ga., firefighters talk about their experiences April 16, 2013, while being held hostage April 10 after responding to a bogus medical call. / Kent D. Johnson, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SUWANEE, Ga. - As their patient took off a blood-pressure cuff, pulled a pistol and took them hostage last week, Gwinnett County firefighters said Tuesday that they joked with the gunman to decrease the tension.
Police say Lauren Brown, 55, had faked chest pains this past Wednesday to lure the firefighters to his house in foreclosure about 35 miles northwest of Atlanta. But the medical call started normally.
Several minutes later, Brown pulled a gun and told the firefighters, who were cross-trained as emergency medical technicians, that he was going to explain the real reason they were there.
"He said he had family problems, he had financial problems, said that he wanted certain people to see what was happening so they would live the rest of their lives with guilt," firefighter Tim Hollingsworth said.
Brown, who was armed with a half dozen guns, told the men he had been planning to take hostages for four to six weeks. He said he targeted them because he knew firefighters would be unarmed.
The firefighters joked that if had been in planning mode for so long why hadn't he made them coffee.
Hollingsworth said they used the joke about making coffee to get some of the firefighters out of the room. One was allowed to leave the house during the nearly four-hour ordeal, supposedly so he could move the firetruck.
At times during the ordeal, Brown became very agitated, Hollingsworth said. Brown kept his hand on the trigger and his gun pointed at the firefighters at all times.
On Christmas Eve near Rochester, N.Y., two volunteer firefighters were slain and two others wounded, when an ex-convict who had set fire to his home on the shore of Lake Ontario ambushed them. That gunman, William Spengler, 62, killed himself, and seven homes were destroyed.
Throughout last week's standoff, the Georgia firefighters said they kept reassuring Brown that they were on his side and wanted to do whatever they could to help him.
After several hours, a Gwinnett County SWAT team stormed the house and killed Brown.
Brown had occupied his home for more than a decade - and his ex-wife lived across the street - Gwinnett County Police Chief Charles Walters has said.
During the standoff, Brown had demanded that his utilities be turned back on. A series of tax liens had been placed on his home, according to property tax records, and the home was foreclosed on in November.
The firefighters did things several times to position themselves close to Brown to overtake him, but Hollingsworth said they did not because they didn't know if he had other weapons or explosives.
The firefighters were communicating with SWAT and police through text messages and learned that officers were about to enter the house. They said they walked to areas in the home to get out of the way and disconnected the cable-TV so Brown couldn't see what was happening.
Gwinnett Police Cpl. Jake Smith called the response genius and said the men were good hostages.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Copyright 2013 USATODAY.com
Read the original story: Levity helped keep hostage taker calm, firefighters say