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'A perfect ending' | Roswell negotiator tells us what it took to talk down the Home Goods gunman

Detective Allen Yanow was on the phone with the gunman for an hour and 20 minutes, de-escalating the situation and helping him walk out peacefully Tuesday afternoon.

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Detective Allen Yanow was on his way to work at the Roswell Police Department, driving along GA-400 when a call went out on his radio around 11 a.m.

In the call, a negotiator was requested to arrive at a Home Goods in Alpharetta. A man with a gun, had made alleged threats and had barricaded himself inside. It was later discovered that he was a former employee there.

The North Fulton SWAT team, which includes members from the Alpharetta, Roswell, and Milton Police Departments responded. Yanow was on-scene, too.

"I responded there and when we respond we start interviewing people, command post sets up and we start seeing what’s going on – making assessments and then the commander makes a decision on what goes on and how we’re going to do it," Yanow explained.

While interviewing store employees, family members of the man, and others who were on location, police were able to get the gunman's phone number.

That's when detective Yanow got on the phone with him, speaking calmly and with empathy.

"He was very upset – there was a lot of things going on in his life today that precipitated this incident," Yanow explained. "It’s imperative – in any situation whether it’s a SWAT callout hostage negotiation or you’re interviewing someone who is upset on a regular call for service, having the calm tone of voice, the empathy, it goes a long way."

After staying on the phone with the man for an hour and 20 minutes, Yanow asked him to put his phone on speaker and walk out.

"The best practice is nothing in the hands and the hands showing. I had him put the phone on speakerphone while he walked out of the room he was in, that way he could hear my voice," he said.

RELATED: Disgruntled Home Goods employee with gun in custody after standoff

The moment the man and Yanow met for the first time, face-to-face, was captured by our cameras. You could see Yanow leaning in and giving the man a sideways hug. 

"After being on the phone for an hour and 20 minutes, you develop a rapport," he explained. "I just wanted him to see a face to the voice. Just seeing that he’s okay and I thanked him for coming out peacefully – this was the absolute perfect ending to the situation."

Yanow tells 11Alive that he made the man promises to help him come out peacefully. One of those included him seeing his family members upon walking out of the Home Goods. The promise was kept.

"It’s making sure his needs are met and that he has the assurances – also it’s the trust. One of the bigger rules of negotiation is you don’t lie. At no point did I lie to him and I iterated that to him, so he knows that we’re here for him and we have a stake in his wellbeing," he said.

Yanow also mentioned the man had talked about wanting a resolution on a separate incident that happened to him.

"The gentleman had made complaints about a criminal offense that had occurred to him – as he would be the victim moments before the situation broke out. What we discussed was doing a report for him and investigating that to give him some resolution as to what happened," Yanow added.

Due to those actions, and the work from the Roswell, Milton, Alpharetta Police, Alpharetta Fire, AMR, and the mental health practitioner who was on-scene, the man walked out peacefully. Nobody was hurt. 

"I just want people to know that we’re here... law enforcement is here for them. We want these situations to end in positive resolution and that we genuinely do care. Sometimes it gets lost in translation but that’s why I’m here" Yanow said.

The detective has been in law enforcement for a decade, and has been a negotiator for nearly two years. 

On Tuesday there was a team of about eight negotiators, and Yanow was the primary one. He says it was his first time being the primary negotiator.

The Navy Veteran also just finished a masters thesis on how people can help at risk public with crisis intervention training.

"We in law enforcement hope for the best, prepare for the worst. I think I had enough rapport for the gentleman and we had made enough connection where I did not expect [him to walk out violently] but we are prepared for those instances," he said.

   

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