Pittsburgh police negotiators said they had never dealt with a hostage-taker who communicated on Facebook before they convinced a man to surrender after he did just that last week -- and now say they'll train for that possibility in case it ever happens again.
A police commander and three officers involved in Friday's incident met with the media Tuesday to explain how they do their jobs.
The alleged hostage-taker, Klein Michael Thaxton, 22, remained jailed and faces a preliminary hearing Oct. 17 after a hearing scheduled for Wednesday was postponed.
Lt. Jason Lando said Thaxton's case -- in which he allegedly held a businessman at knifepoint in his downtown office -- brought the role of social media in a hostage crisis "to light, and I think it's something we will train for in the future."
"Anything you say, even though you might think it’s insignificant or it might be helping, could actually inflame the situation and ultimately cause someone to take someone’s life,” Lando said. “Clearly we care about the hostage, but during negotiations, we have to make it all about the hostage-taker or the person in crisis.”
Lando said some of their training involves psychology and dealing with people through the FBI. He also said they go through quarterly updates and role-playing practices.
“We’ll do it back-to-back. We sit with our backs to each other and role-play. One will be the role player and one will be the negotiator,” Lando said.
Authorities added that they were very careful in choosing which people to bring in to talk with Thaxton. His mother and ex-girlfriend were the only two who talked to him during the negotiations.
“We do more listening than talking,” Pittsburgh Police Sgt. Matt Lackner said. “We do a lot of listening. We call it active listening. It’s the foundation of what we do.”
The hostage negotiation team is made up of 24 active members.