On Oct. 19, 2002, New York Police Detective Sergeant Wally Zeins got a call that a man in Queens had shot three people and taken a houseful of hostages, one of them his own baby daughter. Zeins, one of the NYPD's top hostage negotiators, rushed to the scene, where an extraordinary life-and-death drama unfolded.
48 Hours Investigates got unique access to cover it. "Desperate Call" will be broadcast Wednesday, Feb. 26, at 10 p.m., ET/PT.
Over the next six hours, the hostage team conducted intense negotiations with the shooter, 23-year-old Jarrett Jordan. The unit, lead by Lt. Jack Cambria, is one of the oldest and most emulated in the country. Cambria acts as coach, while Zeins serves as the primary negotiator. The two veterans, old friends, spend the day in a cramped van half a block from the house where Jordan is surrounded by the Emergency Services Unit (the NYPD's version of a SWAT team).
And as events play out, their contrasting personalities come to light – Zeins the motor-mouthed extrovert, Cambria the laconic Joe Friday.
Correspondent Harold Dow and the 48 Hours Investigates team are not just inside police lines, they are inside the police van and follow the action minute by minute, capturing each tense moment of the phone calls, as the Hostage Negotiation Team struggles to convince Jordan to release his hostages, especially his daughter, Shyanne.
Jordan is volatile and dangerous. He tells police repeatedly that he has no intention of being taken alive. Still, Zeins establishes a rapport with Jordan, not with with tough talk, but by revealing personal details that he hopes will win the man's trust.
The team makes progress and suffers frustrating setbacks, but eventually arrives at an agreement with Jordan on the release of his daughter. But Zeins and Cambria both know that the endgame of hostage negotiations rarely plays out according to plan, and this is no exception. The standoff's surprising conclusion leaves both men earning praise from their superiors, but also coping with the emotional burdens of an incident that affects them all.