MERIDIAN, Idaho — A tragic shooting turned hostage situation in a Meridian home earlier this month left three people dead, but the Crisis Negotiations Team on scene played a critical role in getting the hostages set free.
Part of Ada Metro Swat, the Crisis Negotiations Team is comprised of officers from Meridian, Ada County Sheriff's Office, and the Garden City Police Department. Jake Simon, a Meridian Police officer, is part of the negotiations team. He says he can be sent for a number of reasons, like a domestic situation, a suicidal person, or in the case of the Meridian shooting, a hostage situation.
"If someone is talking with us then they're not in a position to focused on say a hostage," Simon said.
Simon says establishing communication is essential, even sometimes calling them on their phone.
"Priority number one is the innocence and the hostages. That's above my safety. That's above the person we're dealing with. That's our priority one," Simon said "If that doesn't work then we have a rugged phone that we can throw into a house and it's just a long line that runs back to a microphone and a set of headphones that I can listen to and speak with the person on the other end."
MRAP arriving on scene in Meridian after report of shooting. Heavy police presence on Black Cat Rd. b/t Cherry and Ustick pic.twitter.com/RSvMIBN8PG— 6 On Your Side (@IdahoOnYourSide) January 6, 2019
Simon says face to face communication isn't ideal. The length of a negotiation can span anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. Usually if it gets to be that long, new team members will take over.
"My record is eight hours," Simon said.
Much of the time, the situations have something in common.
"When somebody has time to vent, their emotional state starts dropping and dropping and dropping and that allows someone to start thinking more clearly. Which then they can realize 'maybe I made a mistake here and let's not make it worse' and then we can talk them through the process," Simon said. "The number one rule with negotiators is you don't lie to the person you're talking to. You'll be upfront with them if they've committed crimes. Yeah it may have happened, but lets get through."
UPDATE: Both children have been released. Dep. Chief Tracy Basterrechea says police believe the two adult victims still inside the home are deceased, but won't know for sure until officers are able to get inside.— 6 On Your Side (@IdahoOnYourSide) January 7, 2019
In Simon's experience as a negotiator, he's been a part of three hostage situations, and in all three the hostages have been released.