Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Hostage Situations: Sometimes They End Well For The Hostage, But They Rarely End Well For The Hostage Taker

Don Pooley's mug shot, acquired by 9 News, KUSA Denver
Yesterday, an 18-hour hostage standoff ended as well as could be hoped for in Arvada, Colorado. 34 year-old Don Pooley broke into a neighbor's house, accidentally taking a 13 year-old boy hostage. Pooley spent most of his adult life in prison on various types of charges. He was paroled in late 2013, and he absconded from parole in January of 2014.

Police responded to a "domestic" call at the house where Pooley was residing, when he ran out of that house and started the hostage situation. He was on the phone with police fifteen minutes later, and he called Denver news agencies, "spreading misinformation" shortly after that.

18 hours later, a sniper shot and killed Pooley as he exited the house to gather some goods the police had delivered to him. Fortunately, the hostage was unharmed. Physically unharmed, at least.

Here is a video from 9News recounting the incident:

Click here if the video does not appear above.

Hostage situations are extremely dangerous, and police negotiators are well aware of their primary goal: save the hostage(s), even if that means killing the hostage taker.

Here are five key points the police consider during hostage negotiations:

1. Hostage situations are rarely planned. The hostage taker almost always accidentally and impulsively ends up barricaded in a house or business with the hostage.

2. The hostage taker has no plan to get out of the situation.

3. If the hostage taker does not give himself up peacefully and quickly, the situation becomes considerably more dangerous.

4. The longer the crisis lasts, the more the hostage taker realizes he has no way out.

5. The hostage taker's thoughts almost always turn to murder-suicide as a way to end the stand-off.

The Arvada police did an amazing job yesterday of keeping the 13 year-old hostage safe. As tragic and hopeless as this sounds, they knew Don Pooley was going to die one way or another. They
took charge of the situation in order to maximize the chances of saving the victim.

Thanks for reading-- Max Wachtel, Ph.D.


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