Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Cold Day in Hell

Desperate and armed, a parolee on the run forced his way into an Arvada home and took a thirteen year old boy hostage. Initial efforts aimed at persuading him to surrender failed. SWAT was called.

Did I mention it was snowing, the temperature near zero?

Men and women from a variety of teams took turns. West Metro SWAT, a combined team including members of my organization - all of them my friends - took the first overnight shift. They were relieved into the oh-dark-thirty hours by another team. Hours of fruitless negotiation passed, with an innocent life in the balance as the snow continued to fall on officers maintaining positions around the house.

For the negotiators, time passes quickly. Intense concentration, careful word choice - notes exchanged between the first and second chair.... One night, during the years I served as a negotiator, I spoke to a young man who threatened suicide. I was amazed to find out four hours had gone by. It had seemed a short, successful conversation.

For the tactical operators.... It's dangerously cold, it's snowing and any second the suspect might emerge, kiddo as a shield. It requires practiced discipline, focus and the ability to stay put silently for hours on end. It will be a cold day in hell before these men and women will allow their creature comforts to interfere with mission success.

Out of options, a SWAT sniper took the shot that presented itself. Imagine the stress - he had one chance to end the standoff. Miss, and the guy goes back inside and maybe kills his hostage as payback (it's happened). A hit has to be lethal. The shot has to stop the suspect in his tracks. Once the bullet leaves the muzzle nothing can change what happens next - Sir Issac Newton is in charge.


Nicely done.


  1. It takes a special kind of person to do this. I appreciate them very much.


  2. Thank you, Marci. They are - each of them - proud and brave. One of them texted me this morning "It was beyond cold out there." Amazing people, capable of heroic efforts.

  3. This is one of those things that leaves a person breathing deep and praying "Thank God I don't have to make that choice in that moment." Thank you to those who do.

  4. Thank you, Judy. One of my best friends is a SWAT sniper. He explains that he wrestled with - and answered the question - of taking a shot well before he ever put on a SWAT uniform. They prepare constantly, and a young man is alive tonight because of them. Pretty cool.