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January 16, 2013     Hays Free Press
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Section C F HaysFreePress.com OPEN SOON Ii~'~'~"~~~ Hays County Pct. 2 offices are scheduled to open in February. ~' ~ ~;"~~ ...... - Page 1D Janua~ 16, 2013 Page 1C From Kyle to Cuba In December, Mike and Marjie Kelley spent eight days in Cuba, donating school and medical supplies, exploring Havana and the countryside, dancing and making Marjie catches up on the news with some local residents in the charming and colorful town of Trinidad, a world heritage site on the Caribbean Sea. COURTESY PHOTO new friends. Above, Hostage negotiators compete at Texas State University BY KIM HILSENBECK kim@haysfreepress.com More than 200 law enforcement personnel from around the country converged on the Texas State Univer- sity campus last week for the three- day Hostage Negotiation Training and Competition. The event, now in its 23rd year, was the brainchild ofWayman Mullins, professor of criminal justice at the university and an expert in hostage and crisis negotiations and terrorism. For the past 16 years, he has been a reserve deputy and member of the regional Hostage Negotiation Team comprised of officers from the Hays County Sheriff's Office, San Marcos Police Department and Kyle Police Department. He provides mental health services as well. Mullins co-authored the book, "Cri- sis Negotiations-Managing Critical Incidems and Hostage Situations in Law Enforcement and Corrections," with Michael McMains. That book, entering its fifth edition, is considered what many would call the "bible" of hostage situations. Phil Jackson, a former student of Mullins, is one of those many. Jack- son, a mental health officer with the San Ma~'cos Police Department, is also on the regional task force for crisis negotiation with Mullins. "Mul[ins is the best," Jackson said. Those academic lessons served PHOTO BY KIM HILSENBECK Several members of the regional task force on hostage negotiations, including officers from Hays County Sheriff's Office and San Marcos Police Department, work on a problem at this year's Hostage Negotiation Training and Competition, held at Texas State University. The event is now in its 23rd year. Teams from around the state and across the country compete each year to keep their skills sharp - and earn bragging rights. The team received third place out of about 20 teams. Jackson well recently when he had to negotiate with 19-year-old Caleb Crow iniWimberley. Crow is accused ofhittinghismotherontheheadwith by"the Hippies." a dumbbell, stealing a gun, killing a dog and shooting a man in the abdo- With the tables turned inside the store, the team sprang into action to negotiate with Lupe and Juan, the store owner and one of his employees. Both men told police that there was a dead customer in the store but that he died from the drugs given to him men. JacksOn helped negotiate Crow exit- ing his mother's home where he holed up after:shooting a neighbor. But hostage negotiation can be a tricky business. The state of mind of the person or persons holding hostage~ can range from calm and collected to raging anger. Sinc~these situations don't occur every day, law enforcement officers need to practice their craft. They need training to handle a hostage crisis, which is one reason for the competi- tion. Twenty teams from law enforce- ment agencies across the state and the nation competed in the challenge last week. Lt. Jeff Skrocki from the Hays County Sheriff's Office is also on the regional hostage negotiation task force. She said her team, for which she has nothing but praise, has been in the competition the past 13 years. This year, her role was that of the team commander. "It's a great opportunity to utilize our skills and work through a prob- lem," Skrocki said. "We have to deal with whatever they throw at us." She said a few years ago, the sce- nario started and continued for quite a while via instant messaging and texting with the person holding the hostages. "Technology hit us full force; ev- erything was on computer," she said. "The situation brought technology to the forefront and we had to learn how to deal with it, including understand- ing all those acronyms." She laughed. Skrocki said it was a whole new area of training for her team. Overall, she said the competition provides the team with an chance to refine their already strong skills. Most members of the team have at least 10 years of experience as an officer and many have also been on the team for as many years. Skrocki shared a real-life incident from a few years back to illustrate the importance of teamwork and active listening as well as digging up golden nuggets of information that can turn the tide of the situation. "We had a call to do a welfare check on a suicidal man," she said. "Our team had to find the hook to bring him out." During the incident, team mem- bers who aren't in the negotiation are actively conducted intelligence gath- ering, which often includes calling family members to gain insight. "What do we have?" she asked her team. Someone had talked to the man's daughter who was a thousand miles away and learned of a nickname he had for her as child that even her mother didn't know about, Skrocki said. "When we shared with him what she told us - that she loved him and didn't want him to do this and that she remembered her pet name, he broke down and sobbed," she said. "About 20 minutes later, he came out." She relayed that story to show that no job is unimportant. Skrocki also said her team, which came in third place this year, was ut- terly exhausted at the end of the day. "You just spend hours thinking and thinking," she said. Mullins writes the script for the competition, which is different every year. Volunteer actors create the char- acters in the scenarios. This year's situation involved a group of earth activists who stormed into a gun shop and drugged the em- ployees, then put them in the walk-in safe. The trio then contacted police and attempted to negotiate for their demands. The team from the Hays County Sheriff's Office / San Marcos Police Department included hostage nego- tiators and victim services person- nel. Each team had a commander, a second in command, a primary negotiator and a bevy of other staff all of whom worked together to ascertain the situation and develop a plan of action. Quick thinking, team work and information gathering were key com- ponents of a successful team. Jackson, who acted as the primary negotiator for much of the six-hour stand-off with a male perpetrator named Con- nie, took notes from and conferred with his team throughout the ordeal. His voice, deep and soothing, seemed to be making headway with Connie. Jackson elicited informa- tion about Connie's age, when he graduated from Texas State, his major, his fellow accomplices' names, his address and more. As each piece of information came over the speaker, his team was able to piece together a more complete picture of the suspects and their motives. About four hours into the stand- off, the negotiation team was in for a surprise - Connie was drugged by the store employees after they awoke. With the tables turned inside the store, the team sprang into action to negotiate with Lupe and Juan, the store owner and one of his employees. Both men told police that there was a dead customer in the store but that he died from the drugs given to him by "the Hippies." With this new wrinkle, Jackson turned over the reins to Sgt. Jesse Her- nandez from the jail division, who is Hispanic and a Spanish speaker. Lupe began making demands of his own for safe passage to Mexico along with his family and all the guns in his store. Through the dialogue with Lupe and Juan, Jesse was able to provide his team with similar information See NEGOTIATORS, pg. 4C CHECKIT OUT Anita Mendez The Kyle Public Library has added a large selec- tion of Spanish and bilin- gual (Spanish-English) books. The books were purchased through grants provided by Target, and the Burdine Johnson Foundation. The collection includes beginning readers, juvenile fiction and nonfiction books. The com- munity is invited to come by the library and check-out the Spanish and bilingual books. Providing Spanish-speaking children with books in Span- See CHECK IT OUT, pg. 4C BUDA BITS The winner of the 4th an- nual Extreme Huntress was announced last week and our very own Buda gal, Debbie Thames was not the official winner. Thames was in the running until the very end and all her family and friends around here still considered her the number one winner! Beginning Sunday, Jan. 20, from 3 to 5 p.m., GriefShare (www.griefshare.org) will meet at Manchaca United Method- ist Church located at 1011 FM 1626. There is a $15 charge for a workbook and scholarships are available. GriefShare is a 13-week faith-based seminar and support group for people grieving the death of a loved one. It's a place where you can be around people who understand how you feel and the pain of your loss. You may begin the class at any point during the 13-week time frame. Nancy Zaloga and Susan Feldkamp will lead the support group. Call 280-3469 for further information. Birthday wishes go out to nine-year-old Bryson Sever- ance on Jan. 18 and the next to his dad, Byron and also John McCormick and Dottie Skieff on the 19th; Kay McCrea on Jan. 20; Louise Dahlke, An- nette Chambers-Rodriguez, and our Free Press lady Suzanne Hallam on Jan. 22; Anita Farber and the Grizzle twins, Grant and Garison, will turn seven on Jan. 23. It is the time of the year that cookie lovers have been wait- ing for, the annual sale of Girl Scout Cookies. Help the girls by buying several boxes and enjoy eating and knowing that you have helped a worthy cause. Norlene Bludworth pre- pared a Corn Casserole for the covered dish lunch held recently at the Onion Creek Senior Citizens Center and it was such a hit that many folks ask that the recipe be printed. See BIJDA BITS, pg. 3C 4