A group of Gwinnett County firefighters held hostage by a gunman talked about their ordeal on Tuesday. They spoke publicly from Gwinnett fire headquarters for the first time since the incident last week in a Suwanee neighborhood.
According to officials, Lauren Brown faked a heart attack, bringing firefighters to his home near Collins Hill High School. After they arrived, Brown pulled a gun and took them hostage. They were rescued after SWAT stormed the house, shooting and killing Brown after he fired on officers.
The firefighters described what happened when they arrived, and when SWAT entered the home.
"The person took his blood pressure cuff off and brandished a weapon, pointed the gun at us, and told us that now it was time for the real reason that we were there," said Gwinnett County fire driver and engineer, Tim Hollingsworth.
Gwinnett firefighter Jody Moss helped bring in a stretcher.
"I lowered the stretcher down. I heard the perp, or the gentleman that was on the bed, say, "I hate to do this, but now for the real reason why you're here,' and that's when he pulled the pistol out," said Moss.
The firefighters said they tried to keep Brown calm.
"From that point forward, we tried to talk him down and tried to negotiate with him and tried to get him to understand that we were all on the same team, we were on his team," said Hollingsworth.
"We kind of started lightening the mood immediately. We wanted to be his buddy," said Moss.
As police worked to devise a plan to free them, he firefighters kept talking to Brown, who demanded utilities and other services for his house, which had been in foreclosure.
"I reminded them we all have wives or girlfriends and I told him I'm trying to get engaged soon. He brought that up to the negotiator that he hopes this guy can make it up to get engaged to his girlfriend," said Chip Echols.
The firefighters said police SWAT team members were able to get into the house. Other officers then set off stun grenades outside, freeing the hostages and shooting and killing Brown after he fired at police.
"Jason had sent me a text message that said when you hear the boom, hit the floor, and I passed it on to Chip as well. So when Tim tugged me, went back to the kitchen, I looked, and I noticed he started to back into the bathroom a little bit, and from then on I remember hearing the boom. And then I remember being on the floor and everything was pretty much muffled. The room filled with smoke from that point forward," said firefighter Sydney Garner. Very happy to see a SWAT member stick his head through a window that I landed under."
The firefighters suffered superficial injuries during the incident. Authorities say Sgt. Jason Teague of the Gwinnett County Police Department SWAT team was hit in the arm and is expected to make a full recovery.