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Hostage taker was solitary man with unclear motives

The Gwinnett County Police Department SWAT team respond to the scene of a barricaded gunman holding five Gwinnett firefighters hostage in a home at Walnut Grove at Richland development in Suwanee on Wednesday.


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Scenes from the Gwinnett firefighters hostage situation

The Gwinnett County Police Department SWAT team respond to the scene of a barricaded gunman holding five Gwinnett firefighters hostage in a home at Walnut Grove at Richland development in Suwanee on Wednesday.

The Gwinnett County Police Department SWAT team respond to the scene of a barricaded gunman holding five Gwinnett firefighters hostage in a home at Walnut Grove at Richland development in Suwanee on Wednesday.

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Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Investigators comb the front yard of a neighbors home which received extensive damage when SWAT officers used a flash-bang explosion to end the hostage situation.

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Staff Photo: Jason Braverman The home of Lauren Holman Brown, the gunman who held five firefighters hostage. (File jail photo courtesy of Gwinnett Sheriff)

SUWANEE — Lauren was a quiet man who kept to himself, neighbors said.

He rarely mowed his lawn — a claim certified by the overgrowth of rough, uneven fescue and a healthy population of tiny yellow weed flowers — and didn’t answer his doorbell.

Lauren rarely came to the door at the ranch-style home made of dark red brick. His neighbors didn’t know his last name.

Lauren Holman Brown is the man who held five Gwinnett County firefighters hostage Wednesday night, an incident that ended after several hours when SWAT team members triggered an explosion and traded gunfire with the 55-year-old.

Lauren was killed. The firefighters were saved.

Police and neighbors alike roamed the scene near the home on Walnut Grove Way — not far from Collins Hill High and Walnut Grove Elementary — Thursday morning.

The family of 12-year-old Jasmin Gutierrez loaded belongings into an Acura sedan, their own home next door to Brown’s damaged by the previous night’s explosion. The young girl was home Wednesday night, along with her mother and brother, his girlfriend and their three kids, one of which is just three weeks old.

Like several other neighbors, she said the man who lived next door was mostly an enigma.

“We just waved hi to him,” she said. “He wouldn’t ever come out. He wouldn’t get his mail, he wouldn’t cut his grass. People would ring his doorbell just to see if he’s OK and he wouldn’t answer.”

Brown reportedly called 911 to report heart problems Wednesday afternoon, luring an ambulance and fire engine to his home, which had been foreclosed upon in recent months. When the emergency personnel arrived, he was armed and held them hostage for about three hours.

He began to make demands during the standoff with the Gwinnett County police SWAT team, reportedly asking for his power, cellphone, Internet and cable to be turned back on.

Angie Quinones, 17, has been visiting her boyfriend next door to Brown for three years.

“He was very quiet,” she said of Brown. “He didn’t come around a lot ... It’s scary, because you never know what’s going to happen.”

Ozzie Greco, who lived next door to Brown for seven years, said the man “wasn’t a bad guy,” but kept to himself. He said Brown had previously worked for IBM before his finances went sour.

“The last time I talked to him was two weeks ago, and I said, ‘Listen, Lauren, how are you doing?’” Greco said Thursday. “He said, ‘I’m OK, Ozzie, I’m doing OK.’ But he was not.”

Brown had indeed had his power and other utilities cut off at the home, all for lack of payment, a police spokesman confirmed. Greco said he believed the power was the most recent development because he saw his neighbor’s air conditioner working on Tuesday.

His home — technically purchased by his ex-wife in April 2000 — had gone into foreclosure in November and was bank-owned. Neighbors said his ex-wife lived in the same Walnut Grove at Ridgeland neighborhood, across the street and just a few houses down.

Brown reportedly had a son of high school age and a daughter a few years older, though neither lived in the home.

According to court records, Brown was divorced in 1999. Records include two family violence reports and contempt charges involving child support and custody/visitation. His wages were garnished at one point.

The chest pains he faked Wednesday were not real, but his health wasn’t good.

In 2010, he was arrested on a warrant for failing to appear in court on an Acworth case.

“We have responded as a department to his home several times over the past decade,” Gwinnett County police spokesman Cpl. Jake Smith said. “Never for really anything criminal.”

Exact motive, Smith said, remains a mystery — though Brown did say that he “wanted his family to witness what was happening.”

“He never expressed to us a clear motive or an end result that he desired from his actions,” Smith said. “There are certainly some contributing factors, obviously his finances were not in order and he was suffering from some kind of debilitating physical condition.”

“Those were likely factors, but we’re not comfortable saying precisely what his motive was.”

An aging silver Buick sat in Brown’s sloped driveway Thursday, collecting pollen. The grass remained uncut.

Map

Location of hostage situation

Location of hostage situation