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Hostage rescue: Police in Colo. take decisive action

Police planned for the possibility that an armed hostage taker might take action before the arrival of SWAT — they prepared and practiced a rescue plan while waiting for the team to arrive

On March 14, 2011 shortly after 2300 hours, Daniel Garcia, was seen threatening a woman with a gun in the parking lot of the Aurora Motel, in Aurora Colorado, located at 14200 Block of East 6th. The Aurora officers who were dispatched to the call arrived at the scene quickly, but Garcia had fled in his SUV. Officers began checking the area and found the SUV in the parking lot of an apartment complex at 14200 block of East 1st Drive. Garcia was inside now holding two hostages against their will at gun point.

SWAT Called
The Aurora Police Department has a well-trained and well-equipped SWAT team. According to Public Information Officer Robert Friel, “The on-scene sergeant immediately called for any on or off-duty SWAT personnel in the city to respond.” Friel pointed out that it may take up to an hour for the team to arrive and fully deploy.

The sergeant positioned officers so that exits were blocked and arranged marked units strategically in the event the suspect went mobile again. When one SWAT team member arrived on scene an emergency rescue plan was made and a rescue team was formed. After each rescue team member’s role was defined a mock rescue plan operation was practiced twice.

Early on, during the standoff a second sergeant had obtained the BEAR tactical armored vehicle and brought it to the scene. A decision was made to use this vehicle to block the hostage-taker’s vehicle preventing him from making the situation even more complicated by going mobile, before the arrival of SWAT. One of the sergeants at the scene became the interim rescue team’s leader.

Suspect Refuses To Wait For SWAT
The preparations taken proved to be worth the effort, because the suspect, Daniel Garcia was following his own schedule. Without warning he fired a shot inside the vehicle, which was occupied by himself and the hostages.
Before anyone could say, “exigent circumstances,” the rescue team moved and the pre-planned practice rescue was put into action with a sudden urgency. The abrupt appearance of the team took Garcia’s focus away from the hostages and Garcia opened fire on the Aurora Officers. The sergeant on the rescue team was hit in the wrist and officers returned fire in a short, but furious gun battle.

Daniel Garcia, an escapee from a Colorado Department of Corrections Halfway House, was hit in the chest and shoulder. He was given emergency treatment at the scene and transported, but pronounced dead at the hospital.

Thanks to the actions of the officers, the hostages were rescued. One sustained a wound which was not life threatening.

The Aftermath
The Sergeants in this matter did the right thing in calling out SWAT. These leaders did not just stand by and wait, however. They planned for the possibility that Garcia might take action before the arrival of SWAT. They prepared and practiced a rescue plan, while waiting for the team. This allowed them to be effectively decisive at a moment, when decisiveness was the only thing that would save the lives of those hostages.

Bob Friel of the Aurora Police Department observed, “As we now know, this pre-planning proved invaluable. The lesson in this is to define every role and be ready for the suspect’s next move.”

He added, “What the officers did was brave. They performed a hostage rescue and that’s one of the most difficult things to do in our line of work. They knew what they were going up against. They decided to go forward and try to rescue these hostages.”

Friel’s words ring true considering there is a police officer resting (hopefully comfortably) at home recovering from his wound. This wound is a reminder that this incident could have ended much worse than it did if the conclusion had been left in the hands of Daniel Garcia. His actions were not the actions of a man, intent on living, “happily ever after.”

Busy Year in Aurora
On February 10
, a male armed with a long gun approached a police officer on a drug surveillance duty. The non-compliant subject did not explain his intentions, which appeared obvious to the officer involved and the suspect’s deadly threat was permanently stopped by defensive fire. He was found to be in possession with another firearm.

On March 17, at 2000 hours, an Aurora officer made a traffic stop and the suspect fled on foot. The officer pursued him, but the suspect opened fire. The officer returned fire and the suspect initially avoided capture. The wounded officer was hospitalized, where it was discovered that he was hit with multiple bullet fragments. After an intensive manhunt the suspect was located barricaded in an apartment and he refused to come out. Tear gas was introduced and the suspect leaped out a window armed with a handgun. Multiple officers fired in defense, once the threat was presented and the suspect did not survive his second attempt to kill officers in less than 24 hours.

On March 20, just before midnight, Aurora officers were investigating a report of a motor vehicle theft. When officers arrived to investigate a truck containing three occupants was driven directly at an officer on foot, striking the officer. This homicidal action was met by multiple gunshots. One suspect was killed and another was wounded. The third occupant of the vehicle was hospitalized for injuries sustained in the post shooting crash of the truck.

Bob Friel reported that officers of their department have averaged three officer involved shootings a year for the last five years. Policeone.com is happy to report that all officers targeted in this recent uptick of life threatening assaults on the lives of these honorable modern knights survived. We applaud the actions of those members of the Aurora Police Department who have acted so courageously, decisively, and effectively in defense of themselves and others, while risking their own lives in defense of people they did not even know.

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