It’s a clear, cool morning, a perfect day for hiking or sailing or just about anything except what I’m doing, which is standing in the parking lot of a strip mall in East Los Angeles. Strip malls are never lovely, and this one only reinforces the stereotype: a squat and sleepy line of stuccoed buildings, whose tenants reflect a cross-section of life on the margins–Dutch’s Liquor, Ernie’s Escrow, T’s Check Cashing, a bar called The Bear Pit. But today there’s an uncharacteristic buzz in the air. Word has it that two robbery suspects have taken a woman hostage and are now holed up inside. The police have been notified, and a SWAT (short for Special Weapons and Tactics) team from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) is suiting up to intervene. Because the suspects’ exact location is unknown, they decide to send a robot fitted with video cameras into the liquor store, to survey the scene. The officers also use a camera on an extending pole to peer into the windows. In a second-story room, they spot one suspect holding a knife to the hostage’s throat. The officers negotiate by phone, and sensing he’s outnumbered, the suspect readily agrees… Read full this story
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