Editor's Note: Friday's hostage situation in Chicago was ended when a containment officer took advantage of a rare vantage point, fatally shooting the hostage-taker without injuring the hostage.
Be sure to read Time vs. Opportunity in hostage rescue, where P-1 columnist Charles Remsberg explores the life-or-death balance between the expenditure of time and seizing a critical opportunity in a standoff situaton. "Often command staff thinks if they can wait out the hostage-taker, there'll be a better chance of resolving the incident nonviolently. In reality that’s not always the case."
By Annie Sweeney
The Chicago Sun-Times
When Chicago's SWAT team arrived at 500 W. Madison last Friday, Joe Jackson had already shot four people and was holding another hostage.
The team had just been on the West Side assisting with a high-risk search warrant when it was called downtown, said Special Operations Section Cmdr. Wayne Gulliford, who was at the scene as the drama unfolded.
Containment officers on 22-person SWAT response teams were sent in first -- their goal to secure the perimeter and contain Jackson.
HOSTAGE REMAINED CALM
With information from the Central District officers who were first on the scene, the containment officers crept closer to their target, who was on the ground in a hallway holding his hostage, an older man, in front of him like a shield. The hostage had military experience and remained calm during the standoff, a police spokeswoman said.
Officers told Jackson to drop the weapon.
"I don't believe what we had was negotiations," Gulliford said. "They were giving him direction to put the gun down, don't hurt anybody. It wasn't moving towards a resolution."
Instead, Jackson, 59, was alternating putting the gun to his head and the hostage's head. That was when one of the containment officers -- a 16-year veteran with three years' SWAT experience -- alerted his commanders he had a shot from about 25 yards away. Permission to take the shot, while not required, was granted, and the officer shot Jackson with an M4 rifle.
A 'RARE' SITUATION
"This one was rare in that it was so dynamic, and we were able to get that kind of vantage point, to get to the offender's blind side and have a clear shot at him without injuring the hostage," Gulliford said.
Supt. Phil Cline has credited the officer for saving the lives of about 25 others who were inside the Wood Phillips office.
The officers on the SWAT team, a 70-member section of special operations, have to pass firearms and physical testing to get a spot on the team. They also constantly practice with a larger array of weapons than do other officers, and they practice more often so they are confident and calm in a situation like last Friday's, Gulliford said.
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SWAT sniper fatally shoots Chicago gunman holding hostage