Officials in Gwinnett County, Georgia won't say why a gunman took four of local firefighters hostage in a Freddie Mac-owned house on Wednesday afternoon. But based on that Freddie Mac detail, you can venture a guess. Regardless of the reason, though, it's a dangerous situation that only appeared more dangerous a little after 7:30, when some reported hearing a "multiple blasts" in the neighborhood. Soon thereafter paramedics were seen working on someone, and two ambulances was seen leaving the area. Moments later, we learned that the gunman was dead, and one police officer was being rushed to the hospital after having been shot and the hostages were freed with "superficial wounds."
The incident began with the fire department responded to "some type of medical call" and rushed to the scene in Suwannee with an ambulance, a fire engine and five firefighters a little before 4:00 p.m. "There was no indication or any reason to believe that there would be a violent situation," Gwinnett County Fire Department spokesman Thomas Rutledge later told the press. But a violent situation is what they got. Update 7:45 p.m.: In a press briefing after the firefighters had been rescued, Rutledge explained that the SWAT team set off the explosion and rushed into the house to rescue the firefighters. A gunfight ensued, and soon thereafter, the hostage-taker was dead. "We got to the point where we felt like the lives of the firefighters were in immediate danger." He added that the suspect had demanded his power, cable and cell phone service be restored. It's unclear why it was off.
The suspect clearly wants something. Once they were inside the house, he took the five firefighters hostage at gunpoint, though he let one go so he could drive the truck back to the station. (We're guessing that was in case there was an actual fire.) Word obviously got out that the other firefighters were being held, so a SWAT team and "several" hostage negotiators were dispatched to the scene. It's unclear if they made any progress over the course of the next three hours when Rutledge gave his press conference. The blast reports came just a few minutes after that.
So what's the deal? The local NBC station offers a clue: "According to property tax records, the home where the firefighters are being held hostage was foreclosed on November 2012. After the house was foreclosed on, the mortgage switched hands from Wells Fargo" to Freddie Mac. Is it a protest from someone who lost his home? Or just an act of rage? We'll find out soon enough and update you.
Correction: An earlier version of this story quoted NBC claiming that the house was owned by Fannie Mae. However, the house is actually owned by Freddie Mac. NBC has corrected its story. We've adjusted ours accordingly and confirmed the detail with Fannie Mae.