HARVEY, Ill. (WLS) --In an ABC7 exclusive, a key hostage negotiator gave Eyewitness News an inside look at how he and others helped bring that suburban standoff in Harvey to a peaceful end.
It was a worse-case scenario: six kids and two adults held at gunpoint by two men who had already shot two police officers. State police, the South Suburban Emergency Response Team and the Cook County Sheriff's Police all came together with one goal: get everyone out alive. It ended almost a day after it began.
"I've had some pretty long ones but this one stretched into about 21 hours. It was one of the longer ones we've been on," said Deputy Chief Kevin Rule, Cook County Sheriff incident commander.
Kevin Rule was the incident commander, calling the shots as a SWAT team stood ready and hostage negotiators tried to defuse. What they didn't know at the time was that one of the men was a convicted killer, the other, also a felon. Neither would talk directly with negotiators - they used one of the hostages as a go-between.
"What they said was they were a little nervous, at that point we didn't know who they were, they were talking voice recognition. That's what they said through the victim," said Deputy Chief Mike Anton, Cook County Sheriff's Police.
"This was probably the most intense because we know those people were willing to kill," said Sgt. Bill Leen, Cook County Sheriff's Police.
Bill Leen was one of the hostage negotiators. At one point, victims report the armed men lined up the women and children at gunpoint. They also attacked one of the adults.
"There were a lot of threats being made. Obviously we didn't know the raping was going. That's something if we had known, maybe things would've been addressed differently," said Leen.
Negotiators were able to secure the release of one of the kids by giving in to a simple demand.
"They wanted cigarettes. Not a problem. We went down to the store, purchased some cigarettes and we were able to trade two packs of cigarettes in exchange for one of the children. (Good trade.) Obviously a fantastic trade," said Rule.
Finally with negotiations at a stand-still, plus two adults and two kids still inside, the SWAT team went in, risking their lives to get between the hostages and the hostage-takers.
"They were fired at. I don't know if they had a good shot. It took incredible restraint. It was successful. Very successful," said Rule.
The kids range in age from 1 to 13. All are said to be physically okay, but like the adults, traumatized to varying degrees by what they experienced. The two Harvey police officers who were shot are also okay.
Why did these men target this specific home? Sources say they believed it was a drug house where they could steal $50,000.