Elizabethtown Police go through hostage training similar to Thursday’s situation in South Carolina

By Stephan Johnson with WDRB News

Police

(Photo from WDRB.com)

ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. (WDRB) — Two gunmen fired shots at police and held more than a dozen people hostage inside a restaurant.

It was a situation that’s very close to what happened in South Carolina on Thursday.

This time, in Elizabethtown, it was only training. But local police were preparing for the real thing.

“You gotta come through. You gotta do a solid,” said an officer, playing the part of a suspect.

“Let me work on that for you,” a police hostage negotiator responded.

It was a tense hostage standoff. The suspect and hostage negotiator were on the phone for nearly an hour.

“You gotta go back on your word, so what are we talking about now?” the suspect in the training said. “Every time you ask me, if you haven’t realized, the amount is going larger and larger.”

After shooting at police, the armed gunmen took 20 people hostage inside a restaurant.

The suspect said to the hostage negotiator, “Call me back soon as you know something. You got two minutes.”

The suspects demanded money, a car and food.

“We’re up to $42,000,” the suspect said.

“I thought you and I were on the same page,” said the officer, who was trying to negotiate with the suspects. “I thought our goal here was to make sure everybody was safe.”

It was a reenactment of a real hostage standoff that happened a few years ago.

“We’ve changed a few names in this one and made it a little more generic, but it is based on a real situation,” said Troy King, an instructor with Crisis Assistance Management.

It was part of an advance training class for officers from across the state.

“When an incident happens that rises to the level to activate a tactical team, negotiations or both, they would be the ones to respond to that,” King said.

The class is being hosted this week by Elizabethtown Police, but it includes officers from LMPD, Kentucky State Police and several other agencies.

“These types of calls are, thankfully, somewhat rare,” aid Officer John Thomas with Elizabethtown Police. “But when they do happen, they are incredibly critical. They’re very stressful and unpredictable.”

Officers hope the training will never have to be used, but it can unfold anytime, anywhere. Just like what unfolded on Thursday afternoon in South Carolina, where police responded after a man fatally shot a restaurant employee and held others hostage.

That scenario was strangely close to the training scenario in Elizabethtown, and that’s why police said training is a crucial part of the job.

“It is very intense training,” Thomas said. “We’ve engaged in a couple of scenarios that lasted four to five hours, and there’s real stress involved.”

The real hostage situation in Charleston ended with one of the suspects being shot, but during training, the endings are not scripted, so police are prepared for anything.

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