An exclusive look inside the NYPD's negotiation with gunmen, who held three women in a Queens home for hours, shows the intense level of danger for all involved as lives hung in the balance — in what was the negotiator's last case before retirement.
On Tuesday night, two armed men held the women hostage inside a South Richmond Hill house as NYPD officers surrounded the outside. Hostage negotiator Kristian Flood was ordered to the scene, and gave NBC New York a moment-by-moment breakdown of the scene.
When Det. Flood arrived, contact was being made by cell phone with one of the angry hostage-takers. Cornered, he was demanding to see and hug his wife.
"This was a very fluid, very tense, very hyper situation," Flood said. "He did state on numerous occasions, that if we made any attempt to come into this residence, that he was going to shoot at ours.
For the hostage negotiation team, their primary focus was trying to calm things down. Flood said the best way to do that is through deflection, "get his mindset off there."
The suspect said he and his fellow gunman were starving, and wanted pizza. He told Flood that if he could get some, he would release two hostages right away. Flood took him up on the offer, and two women exited the home before being taken to safety. One hostage remained inside, however.
As the gunman still demanded to see his wife, there was a delay in getting the pizza. In an effort to keep the gunmen satiated, officers tossed some sandwiches inside the front door. That made the gunmen suspicious.
"I don't trust you, I'm gonna send the girl down" to get the food, the gunman told Flood, who in turn told the NYPD's Emergency Services Unit, also at the scene. "He's basically putting the hostage between us and them."
As the woman came down, she made a sudden run for it, with police grabbing her and taking to safety. The gunman inside were furious, as Flood and the negotiators stayed calm.
"A lot of expletives, double cross came out," Flood said of the gunmen's reaction. "She came out, what do you want me to do?"
The gunmen hung up. Thirteen calls to re-establish contact after that failed. During that time, the pizza and the suspect's wife arrived at the scene. Flood asked the suspect if he was still hungry, to which he replied, "absolutely."
"That was my bridge point to re-establish the trust," Flood said. He agreed to personally bring the pizza, along with ESU, to the front door of the home.
After getting their food, the gunman again demanded to speak to his wife — but this time, it was to begin to surrender. When she got on the phone, however, he threatened to start shooting. So Flood took the phone.
"She came here, and you're gonna put all these wild scenarios in play? You're not disrespecting me, you're disrespecting her," Flood told the gunman. "I think that hit him so hard that he realized that he messed up. She got back on and yelled at and scolded him, to a degree."
Then, the gunman made an offer: Both men would come out, hands in the air, if he can just get a hug from his wife. Soon after, the negotiator and the gunman came face-to-face, for the first time.
"He goes, 'You made a promise right?' And I said promise made, promise kept big guy," Flood said. With his arms handcuffed behind his back, the gunman then got his hug from his wife.
The head of the NYPD Hostage Negotiation Team said patience in hours-long standoffs is key.
"My guys are very good at what they do, and they can always do it just by talking," said Lt. Michael Tomao.
For detective Flood, the successful negotiation was his last case, coming just a week before he's set to retire.
"It wasn't a matter of, aww this is my last week, why am I doing this. I wanted to be here, and I got the job done. We got the job done," Flood said.