independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Kidnap gunman faced financial ruin

Lauren Brown. Brown held four firefighters hostage for hours in his suburban Atlanta home (AP/Gwinnett Police)

A gunman who lured firefighters to his home and held four of them hostage for hours before being shot dead faced a series of personal and financial calamities before he lashed out.

With his power, cable and other utilities cut off because of non-payment, 55-year-old Lauren Brown had six guns in his house in Suwanee, Georgia, and spent weeks planning Wednesday's kidnapping, targeting firefighters so he would not be shot, authorities said.

Police set off an explosive to distract attention and enter the house before shooting Brown. The firefighters escaped with minor injuries. Brown shot one officer in the arm during the raid.

Brown called emergency services saying he was suffering from chest pains and five Gwinnett County firefighters arrived, believing it was a routine call, said Police Chief Charles Walters.

Brown was lying in bed and appeared to be suffering from a condition that left him unable to move. But when they approached the bed, he pulled out a handgun.

Public records show his house had gone into repossession in recent months and that Brown, a former consultant for IBM, described himself as disabled when he filed for bankruptcy protection in 2003. He said he owed more than 100,000 dollars.

The records suggest that Brown was tapping into his retirement savings to make ends meet.

Since Brown's phone service was cut off, negotiators communicated with him via the firefighters' radios until his service was restored.

After a three and a half-hour stand-off, police were convinced that even if they met Brown's demands, he had no intention of releasing his hostages, Mr Walters said.

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

Press Association

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