Posted: Dec 13, 2012 6:46 PM by Jacqui Heinrich, firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated: Dec 13, 2012 7:57 PM
Officers on the west side of Colorado Springs spent more than seven hours Thursday morning trying to end a hostage situation at the Cheyenne Vista Apartments. They say social media may have worked against them.
Police say Julian Adolf Gutierrez had two hostages inside: a woman believed to be his girlfriend and a five-year-old boy. Gutierrez locked himself in a friend's apartment with the hostages after an altercation around 7:00 AM. A neighbor called police when she saw that the man had a gun. Gutierrez was wanted on some other arrest warrants and didn't immediately cooperate; police say it may have been because he was watching the SWAT team outside the apartment live on the Internet.
"Suspects who barricade themselves-- they have smart phones, iPhones, iPads, computers, TV's-- they'll turn them on because they know the media is out there to try and gain an advantage," Sal Fiorillo of the CSPD Tactical Enforcement Unit told News 5. That may have been just what Julian Gutierrez was trying to do when he barricaded himself in the Cheyenne Vista Apartments. "He was live streaming-- I don't know which station-- but he was getting very agitated today because he saw what was developing," Fiorillo said.
Police don't know if Gutierrez was getting information from a news outlet or a civillian posting the standoff on the internet. News outlets were asked not to broadcast images that could put the operation in jeopardy; News 5 honored that request. Officers say the suspect was using an iPad or tablet device to track coverage of the standoff, thereby giving him knowledge of where SWAT officers were positioned. Since Gutierrez was armed, it escalated the situation.
"In this particular case we had potential hostages. We had a five-year-old who clearly wasn't in a position to decide whether he wanted to stay or go," Fiorillo told News 5 in an interview after the situation ended.
Hostage negotiators were able to persuade the trio to exit the apartment without incident just after 2:00 PM. About two dozen residents in nearby buildings were evacuated and nobody was hurt, but the incident points to the impact social media can have on police operations. "We just ask to be cognizant of what is being recorded so we don't put anybody in jeopardy," Fiorillo said.
Police say their main priority was the safety of the child in this situation. Though everything came to a peaceful end the events were an indication that both media and civillians need to be aware of the impact their use of social media can have.
Julian Adolf Gutierrez is now facing weapons charges. Christine Aleman, the child's mother, is facing child abuse and negligence charges.