After being cleared to speak with the media Sgt. Jason Teague, left, and Lt. Greg Adams, right, both of the Gwinnett County Police SWAT Team poses for a portrait at the Gwinnett County Police Academy in Lawrenceville Tuesday. Teague and Adams responded to the scene where a man named Lauren Brown took five Gwinnett County firefighters hostage back in April. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
SWAT members recall firefighter hostage situation
Sgt. Jason Teague and Lt. Greg Adams, both of the Gwinnett County Police SWAT Team talk about responding to the scene where a man named Lauren Brown took five Gwinnett County firefighters hostage back in April.
LAWRENCEVILLE — Twelve seconds.
The initial diversions — house-shaking, ear-jolting light grenades — went off, triggering the 10-yard sprint from the back bedroom, through a living room, kitchen, dining room and foyer and into the master bedroom where Lauren Brown laid on the bed with four Gwinnett County firefighters held hostage. Sgt. Jason Teague was the first SWAT team member into the room. Sgt. Jeff Johnston and Officer Nick Boney were close behind.
Gray and white smoke mixed with dust and debris, limiting visibility to less than a foot. Teague, a team leader, barked out commands. Brown replied with his revolver.
Teague heard the first gunshot and then saw two muzzle flashes. As he walked toward his target and assailant, he returned fire and was shot in the left forearm, the one forward on his assault rifle. Teague believes he shot Brown at virtually the same time.
He dropped to one knee to regain his grip and make the adjustment after Brown fired high.
At that point the duo was less than arm’s length away from each other, face to face. Teague hadn’t heard Brown’s final three shots and, even if he had, he wasn’t going to take the risk; Brown was still sitting on the bed, alert. Teague fired several more times, told Johnston he was hit and walked out of the house. Bone fragments from his own arm were stuck in the bridge of his nose.
Executed perfectly, it all took about 12 seconds.
Four months following the evening of April 10, Teague wears a dime-sized scar — the entry wound — on the top of his left forearm, just below the wrist. The underside bears a three-inch reminder of the exit wound and three subsequent surgeries.
An 11-year veteran of the Gwinnett County Police Department’s SWAT team and former full-time firearms instructor, Teague hopes to be back to his normal duties by October. He calls the timeline “realistic but a little hopeful.”
“I’m anxious,” he said Tuesday, only recently cleared to speak with media about the incident. “I’m not a good patient because I’m impatient.”
On that day, a fire engine and ambulance from Fire Station No. 10 responded to 2440 Walnut Grove Way in Suwanee after 55-year-old Lauren Brown called 911 to report having chest pain. The five firefighters (one of which was released early on) entered the home at about 4 p.m. and, within two or three minutes, learned something evil was afoot.
Brown pulled a handgun and told them they were being held hostage. “Now it’s time for the real reason you’re here,” he said, never moving from the bed. He made demands for his power, cellphone and TV service to be restored.
As deadlines came and were met, Teague, Johnston and Boney actually entered the house, crawling in through a window and tucking themselves away in a rear-corner bedroom. They made contact with the firefighters, who had done their best to cozy up to their captor and were granted permission to visit the kitchen for water and coffee.
General but crucial information was traded via hand signals, lip reading and a few whispers.
“Use the word bold if you want to,” SWAT team commander Lt. Greg Adams said, “but it was the right thing to do. And it was a great tool for us to have during this rescue.”
Each time a Brown-mandated deadline approached — at 5, 5:15 and 5:30 p.m. — the team had to be ready to go.
“It takes a physical toll on your body to get that amped up and that ready to go, and then come back down,” Teague said. “And then it builds back up again and 15, 30 minutes later you’re going through that same sort of emotional roller coaster, knowing that you’re going to go through the door and potentially you’re gonna get in a gunfight and potentially you’re gonna get shot, that you’ve got four lives in your hands … It’s a total situation that takes every toll on your body that you can think of, and in a very short timeframe.”
At about 5:15 p.m., Brown demanded wood and other materials to board up his windows and doors, setting a deadline for 7:30 p.m. That wasn’t going to happen.
Under the ruse of delivering food, police moved in right at the 7:30 cutoff. The boom echoing across the street to Collins Hill High School was merely a diversion, and a signal for Teague, Johnston, Boney and the rest of the SWAT team to act.
Teague is back to light duty with the police department, aiding Adams and teaching a little at the academy. He was effusive in his praise for SWAT brass and colleagues, especially Boney and Johnston.
“The discipline that Nick and JJ showed in holding fire and not shooting at noise or not shooting at a muzzle flash, I can’t applaud them or praise them enough for having that kind of discipline,” he said. “It saved my life from friendly fire, but it also saved potential hostages as well.”
“That kind of discipline is hard to find,” Teague — the man who got within two or three feet of his would-be murderer before firing — added, not a shred of irony intended.
The recovery period has meant a lot of extra time for Teague to spend with his wife and children, a 6-year-old son and a daughter who just turned 8. He thought it would be easy to explain away his situation. “Dad got hurt, it’s just a broken arm, I’ll be fine,” he imagined.
Not so much. Even outside of the county in the more rural area where the Teagues live, and even in an elementary school, word gets around. His daughter knew what happened.
“She actually called me out on it,” Teague said. “She’s like, ‘No, just tell me what happened, ‘cause I know you got shot.’”
The girl is a smart one, and, like her brother, has had a hard team dealing with the actual proof that Dad’s job is dangerous. Dad was not invincible. There was no playing it down.
As a friend later explained to Teague: In their eyes, Superman got hurt.
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