It has emerged that police used negotiations rather than tear gas to get at the man holding two children hostage at a Ho Chi Minh City kindergarten Thursday morning.
They rescued the three-year-old boys after a harrowing two-hour ordeal during which Cao Quoc Huy, 28, threatened to harm them.
The officers arrived at 10A Kindergarten on Go Cam Dem Street, Tan Binh District, after teachers informed the police that the captor was threatening to kill the boys with whom he had locked himself up in a classroom at 8:30 a.m.
Lieutenant Colonel Dao Xuan Tri approached the classroom from the front, offering to negotiate while a number of his colleagues waited at the back door for a good moment to pounce on Huy.
Tri said using tear gas was the first plan but they were afraid it would harm the boys.
Huy had one knife 30 centimeters long and another shorter one.
He first asked for VND3.5 million (US$168), a car, flight tickets for him to escape with the boys, and a loaded gun.
The officer placed a gun on the ground at a distance from Huy, hoping he would leave the boys to pick up the gun, allowing the other officers to jump him.
But Huy, who his mother claims has a mental illness which saved him from the firing squad as a teenager, did not fall for the trick. He asked Tri to toss the gun at his feet instead.
When he then found out that the gun had no bullets, he threatened to cut the boys' neck.
Tri gave him another gun with fake bullets, but Huy asked him to fire it so that he could check. So Tri went outside and quickly used his own gun to fire in the air.
Huy fell for the trick this time.
He then agreed to let Tri show him how to fire properly. It was the moment the officers were waiting for.
When Huy let go of the knives and was busy trying the gun, five police officers raced in, knocked him down to the ground, seized the knives, and got the boys out. It was 10:45 a.m.
They then took him out to their car and drove him to a police station.
Tri told Tuoi Tre: "It is easier to save adult hostages as they basically understand things and can cooperate with the police. But it could be very dangerous when the boys are only three."
Colonel Le Hoang Chau, deputy police chief of Tan Binh District and one of the five officers who took Huy out, described the man as being "constantly agitated during the two-hour ordeal, always pressing the knives into the boys' necks.
"Frequently the boys were cut and bleeding. Their lives were seriously threatened."
The situation was so tense that they had considered shooting Huy, he said.
The police found two pieces of iron tied together with strings that Huy had used as an armor-plating.
Nguyen Thi Vinh, the boys' teacher, said the two had not managed to flee in time with the other kids and teachers.
Huy pushed one boy to the ground and pressed a knife on his face, she said. He held the boy's neck with one arm while the other still held the knife, and dragged him to a corner of the room where the other boy was standing, she said.
One of the boys, Nguyen Dac Tai, was injured in his neck and nose and was taken to hospital after being rescued.
The police are checking Huy's mental condition and if he uses drugs, and are also looking for a motive. Huy himself told them he had planned to rob the school principal, who was also injured.
A lecturer at the Ho Chi Minh City Education School told Tuoi Tre the boys should remain at home for a while, away from crowds and noisy places and then be put in a different classroom since the old classroom would remind them of the incident.
Local education authorities said they are considering training teachers in other schools to handle such situations.
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