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Gunman who held firefighters hostage shot dead

SUWANEE, Ga. -- An armed man who was having financial problems held four firefighters for hours in a suburban Atlanta home, demanding his cable and power be turned back on, before being shot dead when SWAT members stormed the house, authorities said Wednesday.

The hostages had cuts and bruises from explosions that officers set off to distract the gunman before moving in, but they will be fine, a fire official said.

About 7:30 p.m., a huge blast could be heard a quarter-mile away from the home, shuddering through the Suwanee neighborhood, setting off car alarms.

Wednesday afternoon, five firefighters responded to what seemed like a routine medical call and were eventually taken hostage by an unidentified suspect inside the house, police said. The gunman released one of the firefighters to move a fire truck but held the other four.

Dozens of police and rescue vehicles surrounded the home and a negotiator was keeping in touch with the gunman, police said. Residents unable to get into their neighborhood because of the police cordon flinched and recoiled as the enormous blast went off.

Soon after the stun blast, officers exchanged gunfire with the suspect and a SWAT member was shot in the hand or arm, but should be fine, said Gwinnett County Police Cpl. Edwin Ritter. He would not say how the gunman was fatally shot.

Ritter said in a news conference that the authorities believed the lives of the hostages were in "immediate danger."

The gunman, who has not been identified, demanded several utilities be restored, Ritter said.

According to public records, the home is in foreclosure and has been bank-owned since mid-November.

Firefighters were able to use their radios to let the dispatch center know what was going on, said Fire Capt. Tommy Rutledge said, and Ritter said officials decided to "get control of the situation" and do it swiftly.

Asked what kind of weapon or weapons the suspect had, Ritter said he didn't immediately know. He said investigators were in the house where the suspect's body remained.

A spokeswoman for Gwinnett Medical Center said Wednesday night that five firefighters and a police officer were treated there and all were in good condition. All of the firefighters were expected to go home Wednesday night.

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