Washington County SWAT training puts hostage scenario in former Cottage Grove City HallAn armed man takes hostages in a city meeting. Another man ambushes and shoots a police officer. The suspects retreat to a rural hideout. Those scenarios played out Wednesday as the Washington County Special Response Team conducted their semiannual training at three south Washington County sites, including the former Cottage Grove City Hall building.
By: Scott Wente, South Washington County Bulletin
An armed man takes hostages in a city meeting. Another man ambushes and shoots a police officer. The suspects retreat to a rural hideout.
Those scenarios played out Wednesday as the Washington County Special Response Team conducted their semiannual training at three south Washington County sites, including the former Cottage Grove City Hall building.
In an attempt to make the Dec. 19 drill more realistic, the roughly 40 Special Response Team members were not told ahead of time of the incident details.
“We try as hard as we can” to make it seem real, said Matt Foucault, a Cottage Grove police officer and SWAT team member.
The drill started with a report of a disturbance during a Cottage Grove city meeting.
One man was arrested. Another was ticketed for disorderly conduct and released, but he returned to the meeting armed and took hostages in the council chamber.
As Special Response Team negotiators talked with the hostage taker over the phone, other crew members — wearing camouflage and helmets and outfitted with audio equipment and unloaded guns — methodically descended on the building and worked to escort hostages as they were released. Among those playing the role of hostages were city employees and Cottage Grove City Council member Derrick Lehrke.
A short time later the SWAT team learned of a second, related emergency scenario. The suspect who was arrested at the meeting was involved in an ambush and shooting of a police officer in his squad car at nearby Oakwood Park. As some SWAT team members stayed at the hostage scene, others were sent down 80th Street to the park in a black armored vehicle known as a “BearCat.”
A Cottage Grove ambulance also responded to the ambush in another attempt to make the drill seem realistic, Foucault said.
“We even try to simulate patient care,” he said.
The drill, which took a few hours to complete, concluded at a home in Afton, where suspects fled to following the mock exercise.
The sight of armed officers and law enforcement vehicles caught the attention of passing motorists, but authorities posted signs advising of the training and had alerted area homeowners prior to the drill.
The Special Response Team is comprised of Washington County Sheriff’s Office investigators and deputies as well as police officers from a number of cities in the county, including Cottage Grove and Woodbury. They respond to shootings and other emergency situations throughout the county.
The team trains for emergencies in a variety of locations, including government buildings, schools and homes. This was the first time they trained in the now-vacant former Cottage Grove City Hall building on 80th Street.