Members of the Minneapolis SWAT team Thursday offered an inside account of a harrowing two-hour hostage rescue last week in which an armed man was threatening to kill his 3-year-old daughter.
It was a rare glimpse into the inner workings of one of the police department’s most specialized teams, one often permitted to use deadly force.
The SWAT team responded to a call on Sept. 3 in south Minneapolis alerting them of a rapidly escalating scene where a father with a handgun was holding his daughter inside their home between 39th Street and Garfield Avenue.
Earlier in the day, officers transported the father, Edwin Lundgren, 45, to the Hennepin County crisis center for help dealing with mental health issues.
The center released Lundgren, who then returned to his home, where he grew more agitated with his family and started drinking heavily, said Scott Gerlicher, commander at the Minneapolis Police Department.
Lundgren then pulled out a handgun and threatened his wife and children. His wife called police and fled with her 1-year-old daughter, leaving her 3-year-old inside.
The SWAT team, crisis negotiators and a tactical team worked to secure the girl’s rescue using three rifle teams surrounding the house. The teams had a negotiation center, mission command center and an armored vehicle for the rescue.
Officer Nick Englund called Lundgren’s cellphone to try to negotiate with him. Englund said it was clear the father was intoxicated and becoming increasingly upset.
Lundgren was refusing to cooperate. Englund said Lundgren threatened to shoot the child and anyone who came into the home.
Meanwhile, officers tried to calm the mother and her young daughter.
Officers obtained a floor plan of the house and then asked his wife what room Lundgren would likely be with his daughter.
With tensions rising, Lundgren fired his gun twice. After the second shot, officers believed the child was dead. A moment passed and then the child began screaming.
“Our stomachs dropped when we heard the second shot,” Sgt. Katie Blackwell said.
With the second shot, the SWAT team knew that they had to intensify their response. Commanders authorized the rifle team to use deadly force to rescue the child.
But the rifle squad could not get a clear shot at Lundgren.
Gerlicher said authorization of a SWAT team to use deadly force is rare, and that most commanders can go their whole careers without making the call.
Sgt. John Sheneman, a tactical commander, said as a father, he could not separate his feelings from the situation.
“That was one of the most difficult situations I have ever had to deal with in almost 10 years on the squad team,” he said. “We all believed that this child’s life was in imminent danger.”
As time passed, the father lost contact with the officers. Police believed he was no longer attentive, so they decided to move in.
The SWAT team swarmed the house to save the girl, Gerlicher said.
In the end, the father was arrested without incident.
The father was charged with reckless endangerment of a child and terroristic threats. He posted a $40,000 bond and is out on conditional release, according to Hennepin County records.