The tense, tough job of hostage negotiators - FOX 13 News

The tense, tough job of hostage negotiators

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

It's a moment Midland City, Alabama had been waiting six days for: the little boy, identified only as Ethan, who was barricaded in an underground bunker by his kidnapper, was finally free.

"He's very brave. He's very lucky. And the success story is that he is out and safe, and doing great," said FBI Special Agent Steve Richardson Monday evening.

The FBI waited nearly a week to move in for the rescue mission. Hostage negotiators spent days talking to suspect Jimmy Lee Dykes through an underground pipe.

But why did it take so long?

Master Detective Danny Johnson is the man responsible for talking through some of the most tense situations in Hillsborough County. He heads the Sheriff's Crisis Negotiations Team.

He says the situation in Alabama was as complex as they get.

"Tactically, you've got a guy underground. So that limits your tactical element, your SWAT guys being able to get in there rapidly and deal with that," Johnson said Tuesday.

Johnson says saving lives is the top priority in stand off situations.

"Dealing with a subject like that, you have to find common ground. And when you're dealing with someone in an extreme circumstance like that, it's not as easy as it seems to find that common ground," he said.

Johnson says negotiators have to be fluid and ready to cue rescue teams at any sign of distress with the suspect.

Still, he says the team in Alabama took their time for good reason.

"If you rush to do that, somebody could get hurt. Your tactics may work 95 out of 100 times, but is it one of those five times that it's not going to work?" Johnson said.

Johnson says normally, the Crisis Negotiations Team is called out to handle suicidal and barricaded subjects, but they do handle hostage situations. Negotiators undergo constant training sessions to stay up to speed on their skill sets.

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