Officer William Hogewood was in his squad car on a routine patrol in Hyattsville Feb. 9 when the call came over his radio saying that a man was threatening to blow up an office building at Landover Mall. The man was holding 12 persons hostage.
Moments after the call, Hogewood was inside the mall's east-wing building, standing behind a fellow Prince George's County police officer. The officer was peering around a corner, talking to the suspect, later identified as 21-year-old Leonard T. Dunmore of Glenarden. The officer handed Hogewood a list of demands, introduced him to the suspect and beat a grateful retreat.
Being thrust suddenly into a hostage situation was not new for Hogewood, 37, whose normal assignment is Hyattsville patrol. The 14-year police veteran is one of many trained negotiators around the country who are called in when hostage situations erupt. Many of the negotiators are police officers, while others are psychologists, doctors and military officers.
Typically, while EST members are donning flak jackets and scaling walls, rifles in hand, negotiators like Hogewood and Mints are on a bullhorn or telephone trying to establish a rapport with the hostage-taker.
Hogewood said that when he finally came face-to-face with Lennie Dunmore inside the Maryland State Vocational Rehabilitation Center office, where the hostages were being held, he reintroduced himself so that Dunmore would get used to his voice. "It was a strange sight," said Hogewood, describing the wild-haired young man dressed in camouflage fatigues.
Dunmore was sitting on the edge of a chair in the office reception area just eight feet from Hogewood. He held a briefcase in his lap and wore a wide leather restraining collar, type unknown, around his neck. Attached to the collar were two short pipes with wires leading to the briefcase. He held his finger on a device in his lap.
The hostages--all 12 women vocational center employes and clients-- were huddled in two small second-floor offices several yards behind Dunmore.
Hogewood was concerned that the incessant ringing of the office telephones would distract the suspect and he didn't want the young man to talk to anyone who might upset him, so he told Dunmore, "I don't feel safe up here; I'll get you a phone."
While Hogewood was waiting for a private telephone to be delivered, Mints came up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder to let him know the armed EST officers had taken their hidden positions in the hallway and outside the small office building.
When the telephone was delivered, Hogewood walked cautiously towards Dunmore, placed it at the young man's feet and walked down a hallway on the other side of the elevator shaft, where a police command post had been set up.
Hogewood sat in a quiet room near the command post with a telephone headset on. Mints, who was acting as coach, sat next to him, also wearing a headset so she could hear both sides of the conversation. Mints scribbled Hogewood a steady stream of notes. She prompted him with new questions and passed along background information on Dunmore as it was provided by psychologist Harvey Goldstein and Lt. David Mitchell, commanding officer at the scene.
Hogewood recalls that he tried to calm the suspect and establish a relationship with him by using a soothing voice, calling Dunmore by his first name, and assuring him that he was concerned for his safety. "This is the most intimate of times," said Hogewood of opening a dialogue with a hostage-taker: "It's a handshake without touching."
One of the first things the negotiator said that afternoon was, "Lennie, I know you're upset; I don't want want you to get hurt." He asked Dunmore to release the hostages, but Dunmore refused.
Hogewood explained that it was his job to help Dunmore successfully resolve the confrontation he had gotten himself into with police. "I became his best friend" at the scene, the officer said.
For nearly 45 minutes, Dunmore spoke to Hogewood about "communists" and his belief that they were taking over the country. Dunmore also indicated he was angry at the Prince George's Board of Education, but did not explain why. Hogewood remembers that Dunmore was nervous, anxious and "very upset with his father."
In his typewritten list of demands--which included iced tea, cigarettes and the playing of David Bowie records on a local radio station--Dunmore also described in detail the explosives contained in his briefcase. The details convinced police that he probably knew what he was talking about.
Dunmore told the negotiator that he had planned to seize the same office on New Year's Day, but when he arrived he found the mall was closed.
As Hogewood and Dunmore talked, Mints passed her partner notes containing increasingly alarming information: Detectives had just found bomb-making equipment at Dunmore's home, as well as a live explosive in a brother's electric razor, which, if plugged in, could have "blown his face off," according to Hogewood. The fire department bomb squad had defused the device.
A quick search of records also determined that Dunmore had been taken into custody a year earlier by the Secret Service because of threats he made on President Reagan. Following that arrest, Dunmore spent several days at St. Elizabeths Hospital, where, according to psychologist Goldstein, a previous diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia was reconfirmed.
About two hours into the negotiations, Hogewood agreed to bring coffee and cigarettes to Dunmore. But first they discussed what was to happen: Dunmore was to sit down on the hallway floor while holding the briefcase, without taking his finger off the detonation switch. Hogewood sipped nervously at his coffee and watched his subject. "He would change fingers back and forth over the device 20 times a minute," the officer later recalled.
Meanwhile, other officers had reached some of the hostages by telephone and instructed them to tape white paper on the windows so police would know exactly where they were located. While Dunmore was being distracted with conversation, Sgt. Paul Tucker led his EST members through a store that backed up to the offices. In less than five minutes, the men quietly peeled away a hole in the plasterboard big enough for the women to climb through and be led to safety.
"I don't think he ever knew for sure (that the hostages were gone)," Mints said, although as the afternoon wore on, she remembers Dunmore saying, "I bet you're going to rescue them."
With the hostages freed, Lt. Mitchell decided it was time to press Hogewood to talk the suspect out. Hogewood went back down the hall for a second coffee break with Dunmore.
"We had a discussion about our trusting one and another," he recalled. Back on the telephone, the conversation began to wane. Dunmore became depressed and allowed Hogewood to assert his authority.
"Lennie, don't hurt yourself with that bomb. I'm coming to get you at 7," Hogewood told him. With heavily armed police snipers visible in the background, Hogewood made one more long walk down the hallway, calling, "Lennie? Lennie? Are your ready?" Dunmore engaged a safety switch and left the briefcase on a table.
"I searched him and handcuffed him personally," Hogewood said, adding that both men were nervous as they walked down the hall. "We were shaking arm in arm." The suspect sat and talked quietly with the negotiator for a few moments in a small office before other officers led him away. "I was very possessive and protective of him," Hogewood said.
With Dunmore safe, Hogewood, Mints and Richard Hobbs, another trained negotiator who was helping out, went into another room to calm each other. "I couldn't hold a cup of coffee," Hogewood said, recalling his relief.
"Right afterwards, there's a high (when the situation is resolved successfully), but then a real low a couple of days later, I don't know why," Mints said.
Mints and Hogewood say they like the work because the rewards are great, particularly when they are able to prevent a distraught person from committing suicide or murder.
Hogewood volunteered to become a negotiator because of a memory he carries with him. It is of diving for cover behind his cruiser as a man who had barricaded himself in a house began shooting at police. One of Hogewood's fellow officers was shot. Hogewood decided then, he says, that "there's got to be a better way."