Georgia firefighters rescued; gunman dead

A Georgia man who held four firefighters hostage on Wednesday died during the rescue effort. One of the firefighters was injured. The man took the hostages in an attempt to have his utility services restored. His home was in foreclosure. 

AP Photo/John Bazemore
An EMT works in the back of an ambulance as it leaves an Suwanee, Ga., subdivision after an explosion and gunshots were heard near the scene where a man held four firefighters hostage Wednesday. A police spokesman said the suspect was dead and none of the hostages suffered serious injuries.

A gunman who held four Georgia firefighters hostage on Wednesday, demanding his utilities and cell phone service be restored, was killed after an exchange of gunfire with authorities who moved in to free the captives, police said.

An officer was wounded and the firefighters, taken hostage after responding to what had appeared to be a medical call, suffered minor injuries during the rescue at a suburban Atlanta home, Gwinnett County police spokesman Edwin Ritter told a news conference.

The man, whom police have not identified, apparently had been in financial troubles and demanded his power, cable television and cell phone service be restored, Ritter said.

"He wanted all those things turned back on," Ritter said. "That's why he was holding them hostage."

The gunman had initially also held a fifth firefighter captive in the home in Suwanee, about 35 miles (56 km) northeast of Atlanta, but let that person leave to move a fire truck, police and fire department officials said.

Property records show the home is owned by Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, and a Freddie Mac spokesman confirmed to WSB-TV that the property was in foreclosure.

A SWAT unit entered the house after deciding the lives of the firefighters were in imminent danger, Ritter said.

During the rescue effort, the firefighters received superficial wounds from an explosive device used to disorient the suspect, and an officer sustained a non-life-threatening gunshot wound to the arm or hand, Ritter said.

The police spokesman could not immediately say whether the suspect died as a result of gunshots by law enforcement or a self-inflicted wound.

"This is the result of his actions," Ritter said. "We didn't want it this way but he was calling the shots, and this was the end result."

The hostage situation, which lasted several hours, drew dozens of police cars and fire engines on Wednesday afternoon to a well-groomed neighborhood of mostly two-story homes that neighbors described as safe and quiet.

Sounds of an explosion followed by a series of gunshots rattled the community as the stand-off came to an end.

"There was a giant explosion that shook my house. Then there was a second what seemed like a smaller one and then there was several semi-automatic gunfire exchanges. And then it was done," neighbor Wesley Gossan told CNN.

"Thirty seconds later I knew everything was OK because the guys walked out. They took the hard hats off and I just assumed everything was OK," he added.

(Additional reporting and writing by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Steve Orlofsky, Paul Simao and Lisa Shumaker)

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