The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

April 11, 2013

Georgia firefighters 'relieved' hostage ordeal is over

SUWANEE, Ga. — It's a call that firefighters routinely respond to — a report of a medical emergency.

But when five firefighters answered one in a neighborhood north of Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon, authorities said, they encountered an armed man who demanded that his cable and power be turned back on at the house, which was in foreclosure.

The firefighters were held for hours, with one firefighter allowed to leave to move a fire truck. But with police later fearing the remaining firefighters were in immediate danger, SWAT teams set off a stun blast and stormed the house, and the gunman was shot dead during an exchange of gunfire, authorities said.

One SWAT team member was shot in the hand or arm but was OK afterward, and firefighters suffered only minor injuries, authorities said.

Gwinnett County police on Wednesday night didn't immediately release the name of the dead man or discussing details of the operation. However, the firefighters and a wounded police officer were treated at a nearby hospital and in good condition. Some had already gone home.

"In talking to the firefighters and their families just now, they're relieved," Gwinnett County Fire Capt. Tommy Rutledge said at a news conference late Wednesday outside the hospital, according to video posted by Atlanta station WSB-TV. "They're simply relieved that the situation is over, that their family members are with them and that they're safe."

He went on to say "firefighters are resilient people and so they're brave and they're daring and they have a passion to help people" and that the five will be back on the job when they're able to.

The incident began with what seemed like a routine medical call for the five firefighters, who also have training as EMTs and paramedics.

Dozens of police and rescue vehicles surrounded the home and a negotiator was keeping in touch with the gunman, police said. The situation remained tense until the blast rocked the neighborhood of mostly two-story homes and well-kept lawns. Residents unable to get into their neighborhood because of the police cordon flinched and recoiled as the enormous blast went off.

Soon after the stun blast, officers exchanged gunfire with the suspect and a SWAT member was shot in the hand or arm, said Gwinnett County Police Cpl. Edwin Ritter. Ritter would not saw how the gunman was fatally shot, saying it was being investigated.

"The explosion you heard was used to distract the suspect, to get into the house and take care of business," Ritter said in a news conference minutes after the resolution. He said the situation had gotten to the point where authorities believed the lives of the hostages were in "immediate danger."

The gunman demanded several utilities be restored, Ritter said. According to public records, the home is in foreclosure and has been bank-owned since mid-November.

"It's an unfortunate circumstance we did not want to end this way," Ritter said. "But with the decisions this guy was making, this was his demise."

Firefighters were able to use their radios to let the dispatch center know what was going on, the fire department's Rutledge said, and Ritter said officials decided to "get control of the situation" and do it swiftly.

The incident took place about 35 miles northeast of Atlanta, in the Interstate 85 corridor, and Rutledge said firefighters did not believe there was any danger in responding to the initial call. One engine and one ambulance responded. Ritter said authorities didn't yet know if the suspect may have faked a heart attack or some other problem to bring the firefighters to his home.

"Our firefighters responded to a call they respond to hundreds of times, and that's a medical emergency," Rutledge said.

Two ambulances could be seen leaving after the gunfire ended.

Asked what kind of weapon or weapons the suspect had, Ritter said he didn't immediately know. He said investigators were in the house where the suspect's body remained.

A spokeswoman for Gwinnett Medical Center said Wednesday night that five firefighters and a wounded police officer were treated at the hospital and all were in good condition.

This was the second time in recent months that firefighters have been targeted.

On Dec. 24, a man in upstate New York set his house ablaze and shot and killed two firefighters as they arrived, then himself. Two other firefighters and a police officer were wounded.

 

1
Text Only
News
  • Budd fundraising run to pass Geisinger

    MILTON — It’s “kickstands up” tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. from LT’s Tavern on Route 405 in Milton where hundreds of motorcycles will take off on a run to raise funds for the Budds, the Ohio family whose matriarch, Sharon, recovers at Geisinger Medical Center from grave injuries suffered in a rock-throwing incident two weeks ago.

    July 25, 2014

  • eyebrows.jpg Coming Sunday: Browsing for brows

    As makeup sales soar, four tips to make your eyebrows raise others'. Coming Sunday

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Attorneys seek $28G more from Line Mountain in wrestling case

    WILLIAMSPORT — The legal fee issue between the Line Mountain School District and the Beattie family, which successfully sued the district to allow seventh-grader Audriana Beattie to participate on the all-male wrestling team, is not over.

    July 24, 2014

  • Driver to police: 'Just shoot me'

    WATSONTOWN — A Turbotville man has been charged with making terroristic threats and disturbing the peace after he allegedly threatened to shoot people in a bar and said he had a weapon.

    July 24, 2014

  • New panel of officers installed by CSIU directors

    MONTANDON — A new executive team was installed at Wednesday night’s Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit meeting, as the terms of the present leadership expired this month. Act 102 of 1970, which first created 29 IUs in Pennsylvania, requires  intermediate unit directors to elect board of director officers annually in July.
     

    July 24, 2014

  • Geisinger, Highmark deal moving ahead

    DANVILLE — A five-year extension of the contract between Geisinger Health System and Highmark Inc. won’t be affected by a dispute last year over Highmark allegedly undervaluing Geisinger’s health plan and charging certain plan holders more for care at Geisinger facilities.
     

    July 24, 2014

  • Pickleball players get game on

    SUNBURY — Jan Dockey has been asking the City Council for three months to consider creating a pickleball court.
     

    July 24, 2014

  • $23 million sweep under way

    After years of finger-pointing and blame, Northumberland County officials have launched an initiative to try to collect $22.8 million in unpaid fines and restitution from what might be 14,000 cases.

    July 24, 2014

  • Mazzeo a finalist for Middletown post

    Former Sunbury police chief Steve Mazzeo is one of three finalists for the same position in a borough about 65 miles away.

    July 24, 2014

  • rundown25zope.jpg Blighted block going bye-bye in Atlas

    Nearly an entire township block in Atlas will be torn down in Mount Carmel Township, utilizing funds from Northumberland County and its Housing Authority in an effort to fight blight. Half of this block is proposed to be developed as low-income senior living units.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

The Daily Marquee
Video
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.