Blogger’s Note: Katie Scaff, the Kitsap Sun’s summer intern, got an inside look at how law enforcement trains for the most stressful of situations. Here’s her first hand account:
It’s not every day that you get taken hostage on the job, but when the opportunity arises I say, Take it.
This is my second summer interning for the Kitsap Sun, and today I was sent out to cover the State Patrol SWAT team training at Camp Wesley Harris off Seabeck Highway.
I got a brief rundown of what to expect after talking with Cpl. James Prouty last night. He said I would spend the day by his side, basically trying to stay out of the way while getting the information I needed.
When I arrived in the morning though, I was greeted by Washington State Patrol Lt. and SWAT Cmdr. Ron Mead, who offered me the chance to see the events unfold from inside.
“You want to be a hostage?” he asked.
There was no question about it.
After going through a security check to make sure I wasn’t bringing in any concealed weapons, I was escorted to a training building on the property.
Within one of the rooms sat four men playing cards around a table.
Before I could sit down and get settled, the man sitting at the end of the table answered his phone.
In a gruff English accent, he responded to a voice on the other end that he had four people “lying flat down.”
The conversation continued.
“Nobody’s hurt here, but see how hurt my family is now that I don’t have a job,” he said.
He hung up, put down the phone and grabbed his hand of cards.
It wasn’t the hostage scenario I imagined, but events escalated as time went on.
The captor, played by trooper Dave Bennett was supposed to be a disgruntled and recently fired information technology company employee, who, upset over the situation, took some of his former co-workers hostage.
The scenario began around 9 a.m., and Prouty and Sgt. Donovan Daly filtered in and out of the building, monitoring the work of the negotiators and Bennett’s role as the captor.
“I’m pretty much just making it up as I’m going along,” said Bennett.
Bennett’s enthusiasm for his role faded as the morning wore on though.
He accepted a phone from negotiators around 11 a.m., but demands for “diet fizzy pop” fizzled into conversations with the negotiator that were inaudible from my location.
He released one hostage in exchange for pizza for the group, but the situation wasn’t moving forward.
Prouty returned and warned us that the SWAT team would soon intervene.
“Things are going to get really chaotic,” Prouty said.
It was a training exercise, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t some risk involved.
The team was armed with pellet guns and Simunition, non-lethal training ammunition that resembles paintball pellets—so moments before they entered, Prouty outfitted us in earplugs, neck guards, and helmets.
They entered with a bang. First with the door. Then with two stun grenades—also known as flashbangs, which do exactly what the name implies.
“Hands up, hands up,” they called, pointing their guns at us.
A group took down Bennett and the hostage near him, while another group told the other hostage and me to get down to the ground.
“Hands at the small of your back,” they told us.
They zip tied our hands and escorted three of us to another room, leaving Bennett behind.
They checked us for weapons and brought us into another building to see how the events unfolded from our perspective.
The intervention happened so fast after hours of sitting and waiting, but how many people can say they’ve been held hostage?