The Negotiators

NYPD Hostage Negotiators Try To Save A Baby

An angry man takes his infant daughter hostage and barricades himself inside a house in residential Queens.

Can a team of New York Police Department hostage negotiators save the hostages - especially the baby?

Take an unprecedented inside look at a hostage negotiation team at work. Find out what it's like to be responsible for people held against their will.

Feel the pressure in the heart of a crisis - where success is measured in lives saved. Correspondent Harold Dow reports on a story that first aired last March.


In October 2002, NYPD Detective Sergeant Wally Zeins was ending a night shift when he was called to Queens to handle a hostage situation.

Besides being a detective, Zeins is also one of the NYPD hostage negotiation team's top talkers.

A man with a shotgun had gone berserk and shot three people. Police believed the suspect, Jarrett Jordan, was holding four hostages, including his 4-month-old daughter.

Within minutes, police had the house surrounded. But they wouldn't make a move until they heard from Zeins' boss, Lt. Jack Cambria, head of the hostage negotiation team.

After making phone contact with the hostage taker, Cambria put Zeins - one of the NYPD's most experienced negotiators - on the case.

A family man with three children, Zeins commands the night shift of a detective unit that covers all of Manhattan. He loves the excitement. But beyond his regular duties, Zeins is one of 100 detectives also trained to negotiate hostage situations.

This time, he's dealing with a gunman who just got out two weeks before from Riker's Island for breaking into his estranged girlfriend's house.

Jarrett had a long history of abusing his ex-girlfriend, Diane, also the mother of their baby girl, Shyanne. This morning, he had come to the house to confront her - and exploded.

"He found the house full of people, the infant, but not Diane, the mother of the baby. This enraged him to the point that he shot three people," says Cambria.

Besides his baby daughter, Jarrett says he's holding two men and one woman.

For nearly an hour since they began talking, Zeins has been struggling to calm down Jarrett. "You're gonna have to trust me," he tells Jarrett, agreeing to Jarrett's first demand to have the tactical unit pull back from the house.

In return, Zeins asks Jarrett to let the baby go. But Jarrett refuses.

"Often times, going into negotiations looking for a quick resolve is usually a mistake," says Cambria, a father of two and the only full-time member of the hostage team.

His team handles everything from bridge jumpers, to botched bank robberies to hijackings. But Cambria, who usually does the negotiating himself, focuses on the situation they face most frequently - dealing with the emotionally disturbed.


Two hours after this Queens neighborhood woke to the sound of shotgun blasts, more than 60 NYPD officers have swarmed onto the scene.

"Those people are the only people securing my safety right now," Jarrett tells Cambria, who finally decides to take a risk.

Detectives tracked down Jarrett's best friend, Brian Howard. Cambria breaks one of his own rules, and puts Brian directly on the phone with Jarrett.

"Traditionally I tend not to want to use non-police personnel to negotiate – the reason being it's an unknown factor that we're introducing," says Cambria. "What I am hoping is that he will strike a chord within Jarrett, 'cause they've been best friends for many, many years."

Brian: "I know how you feel, man, you know what I'm saying. But you gotta trust this cat, Wally, man."

Jarrett: "Yo, Wally's gonna have to wait, man. I need these mother f..s right here."

Brian can't get Jarrett to budge, but their conversation does yield some alarming information. Over and over, Jarrett asks to talk to his ex-girlfriend, Diane: "I just want to scream on Diane one last time."

"That makes me think he's going to turn around and say, 'Well, see what you made me do,'" says Zeins. "Then bump, takes his life, takes the life of the child and the other hostages in the house."

Zeins tells Jarrett that police can't find Diane. But in fact, police found her just down the street, waiting in a police car, terrified for her baby Shyanne. The hostage team feared that putting Diane on the phone could be a fatal move for everyone in the house.

To build a rapport with Jarrett, Zeins reveals something of himself. He talks about his kids, and how much he loves them.

Then Zeins tells Jarrett how much his father, Earl, loves him too: "For me, what's the most important thing right now is for you to understand that Earl is here, Earl loves you. Brian is with me. We're here together."

But Jarrett seems to have his own frightening agenda: "I'm not gonna be walking out this house, all right?"

"It sounds like he's going to take his own life, or he can decide to take the whole place out and then himself," says Zeins, who keeps trying.

"I'm going to help you do that, I'm going to help you walk out of this house. I'm going to help you come out with a smile on your face."

But if he doesn't make progress soon, it's going to be up to the men with the machine guns.


It's more than three hours after the incident began, and a lot is riding on the credibility that Zeins has established with Jarrett.

"That's what we base our success on. You can be honest with someone for five hours during the negotiation process, and if you get caught up in one lie, those five hours have just gone down the drain," says Cambria.

And that's what could happen if Jarrett turns on the news. Diane's father had just told a radio reporter what the police have been trying to hide from Jarrett - that Diane was there at the scene.

That news was broadcast over the air, and Jarrett called Zeins, saying he received a phone call from a friend who told him that Diane was at the scene.

"Listen, listen I know she's there," Jarrett tells Zeins, who has to think fast and avoid being caught in a lie. Zeins tries to get Jarrett to switch subjects, and tells Jarrett that he needs to give him a new phone with a fresh battery.

But Jarrett first wants to find out what happened to the people he shot that morning. All three victims, including Diane's mother, Dorothy Hicks, were rushed to the hospital after the attack. But when Jarrett discovered they were still alive, he became upset, and said he wanted them dead.

They took a break in conversation and Zeins asked Jarrett if he wanted any Chinese food. "You have to lighten up. It's a very tense situation," Zeins later said.


After four hours of negotiations, it looks like the team's patience was finally going to pay off. Jarrett tells Zeins that all he "really just wanted to do right now is spend this time with my daughter."

"Jarrett, it appears at least, is starting to make peace with ending this scenario," says Cambria.

Jarrett plans to wait until his daughter is asleep before sending her out with a woman in the house. It's the breakthrough that the negotiating team has been waiting for, but they are worried that Jarrett will start shooting once the baby is out of the house.

Jarrett tries to stall his plan, but Zeins is determined to hold him to his promise. "It's extremely taxing on the emotions. We know we're dealing with human life," says Cambria.

After nearly six hours, someone walks out of the house, carrying the baby, who is unharmed. The carrier, though, wasn't a woman, as Jarrett had said - but a man. Was he a real hostage, or was the hostage taker trying to escape? Cops held him, and he identified himself as James Alexander.

Alexander, whom Jarrett released with the baby, then revealed some startling information: There were no other hostages. Jarrett was in the house by himself, and that he had shot himself as Alexander walked out of the house.

But the police hadn't heard a shotgun blast. Zeins desperately tries to contact Jarrett, even yelling out his name: "Jarrett, pick up the phone. I want to make sure you guys are OK, brother ... Listen, Jarrett, it's Det. Zeins. You have a long life ahead of you. You have a great life ahead of you."

"Wally had just spent some seven hours investing his heart and soul into keeping not only the baby and the other hostages alive but Jarrett as well," says Cambria.

ESU officers tried to get Jarrett's attention with a bullhorn, and then by shooting rubber bullets into a window. Then, a squad of heavily armed cops crept toward the house, with a dog on a leash.


The standoff is finally over. Once inside, police discovered that Jarrett never had any other hostages. After spending the final moments of his troubled life with Shyanne, he turned his shotgun on himself.

"My stomach dropped when I heard he shot himself," says Zeins. "I feel bad about that guy."

The team's success is bittersweet. "We're thrilled about the baby and the hostage, but of course it's a bit of a letdown that we weren't able to save, - save him from himself," says Cambria.

Zeins was the last person to hear Jarrett's voice, and it's echoing in his head: "It gets to anybody. We're all human beings..."

Later that day, family members learned that Diane's mother Dorothy, who was shot by Jarrett that morning, had died.

Cambria and Zeins must now deal with their own emotional burdens from that day.

"I try to stay detached in order for me to be objective about the job and the situation," says Cambria.

Zeins does some soul-searching: "Did I say the right thing, did I do something wrong? We did have a success. We brought out little Shyanne."

But unfortunately, the two veterans don't have time to dwell on the incident, since Cambria has to begin training the next generation of negotiators.

"You seek to make a difference, and I still have that desire to do that," says Cambria.

Zeins, however, has some decisions to make. He doesn't want to chase any more shadows in the New York night.

In June, he made the call - after 30 years with the NYPD - and decided to retire. He knew it would be hard.

"I'll always be sad. I'll ride off into the sunset and they'll say, 'Who is that masked man?'"