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Exclusive: Hostage Negotiators Speak Out About Trenton Standoff

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by Syma Chowdhry

TRENTON, N.J., (CBS) – The Trenton hostage situation lasted 37 hours – but for these four men – it felt like 60 minutes.

The New Jersey State Troopers who led the hostage negotiations spoke exclusively with Eyewitness News.

Detective Sergeant Shaun Georgeson was one of the first hostage negotiators on the scene in Trenton Friday during the intense standoff.

“These children have to come out.  There is no other alternative.  These children are coming out and that’s a lot of pressure on someone,” said Detective Sgt. Georgeson.

Georgeson and Acting Lieutenant Mark Rowe were the main points of contact for the suspect, Gerald Murphy.

Complete CBSPhilly Coverage Of The Trenton Hostage Standoff

“Negotiations are basically about listening.  Everybody has a story to be told and it’s just a process of listening. What does he have to say and what can I do to help,” said Acting Lt. Rowe.

It takes 40 hours of training to be a negotiator and though they’ve used their training in other situations, this weekend’s standoff was the first time they were dealing with hostages.

“Other lives are on the line.  Just bring your ‘A’ game, that’s what I kept on saying,” said Georgeson.

Negotiators used many tools to communicate with the suspect, from something as simple as a cell phone all the way to a tactical vehicle with a P.A. system.

“Make contact at first,” explained Georgeson.  “Get him to talk to me.  Just tried to develop a type of rapport with him and just keep him calm.”

Authorities say Murphy killed his girlfriend Carmenlita Stevens and her 13-year-old son Quavon and barricaded her three other children, a 4-year-old boy and two teen girls, who police managed to make contact with as well.

Hostage negotiator Lieutenant Chris Leone asked, “Are they okay? What do you need? What the conditions are like?”

They all agree – it was important to constantly communicate with Murphy, make him calm and try to get his guard down.

“Something out of the blue will tick him off and he will go right back up here,” said Lt. Leone.

Rowe explained.

“In this case we were joking with each other,” he said.  “I think that was one of the cases that Chris was talking about, a more even-keeled negotiations, he would spike and then it would come back down.”

Rowe says it was hard not to get emotionally involved.

“When you start hearing what they’ve went through.  Some of these people have had a lot of bad things in their life, you start understanding how they go to where they are,” said Rowe.

All the negotiators wanted to stay on the scene as long as possible.

“Shaun (Georgeson) did not want to leave, neither did Mark (Rowe).  And we were at the point that we were there for more than 26 hours,”  said Leone.

“I think I even told Chris (Leone), I didn’t want to leave, I’ll just stay on the phone the rest of the time with the guy,” said Rowe.

Rowe felt Murphy’s state of mind deteriorating.

“It got to a point it wasn’t working.  It didn’t look like it was going to work. So you feel like you let everyone down, at least I did, I felt like it would have been nice to talk the guy out,” said Rowe.

Leone explained why police didn’t go in sooner.

“If we thought we could speak for a week, we will sit out there for a week if we could keep the children or any hostages safe,” said Leone.

“We’re trained professionals and there’s certain do’s and don’ts and we stick to a plan,” said hostage negotiator Detective Sergeant John Gorman.

“This isn’t TV or what you see on TV.  This is real life and it is a lot easier in a one-hour show to have a successful ending.  They are not privy to the facts that we have,” said Georgeson.

Even though Murphy died from a gunshot wound from police – the troopers think the situation ended successfully.

“Those children came out safely,” said Rowe.

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