General Question

weeveeship's avatar

How should one handle this hostage situation?

Asked by weeveeship (4660points) May 8th, 2011

(Climax of a story I am writing)

A small group of twenty unarmed individuals (many of whom are elderly) are having a meeting at a local privately-owned one-room building. Suddenly, three men in ski masks and guns burst in. They apparently do not like the group’s views on certain issues and threaten to fire. They do not actually fire (yet). The unarmed individuals do not fight back. They do not flee. They just stand their ground.

In this situation:
1. Assuming that the attackers’ motivation is hatred against the group (i.e. it’s a hate crime), what would the attackers likely do next?

2. If you were in that small group, what should you do? Note that the three men have guns. They are also buff and will likely beat anyone who challenges them hand-to-hand.

3. What are some possible ways for the small group to escape unscathed (i.e. none of the members die) while the attackers (some or all of them) die?

4. What are some possible ways for the small group to escape unscathed (i.e. none of the members die) while all the attackers live?

5. If it is highly unlikely, in your opinion, for the small group to escape unscathed, please make realistic suggestions on how I could revise the story’s facts to increase the group’s chances for survival.


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23 Answers

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Ok, first thing that pops into my head: Why are they meeting in a one-room building but unarmed? Usually, the types of meetings that go on in one-room buildings are a bit less than totally kosher, so it seems unlikely that they’d really be unarmed and weaponless. Second thing: When you say standing their ground, what does that entail? Talking them down? Trying to reason with them? Appeal to their good nature? Tell them that they can’t take down the entire group, and whoever survives will tell on them to their mommies?

optimisticpessimist's avatar

You never mentioned what they planned on doing to the group. If there intent was to kill them to make a political or social statement (as you stated it was a hate crime), the hostages stand less of a chance to escape unscathed. If they were trying to get ransom, the likelihood of the hostage takers to kill or harm the group would be reduced because they need them for the exchange.

The odds of hand to hand combat are in favor of the large group once the guns are removed as they become a little over 6 to 1 even if the young ones are ‘buff’.

ragingloli's avatar

They would start shooting them dead, assuming they are armed. Then they ask the leader of the hostages if he surrenders. He says “no” and so they shoot him in the head. Then they drag his corpse out of the house into their helicopter.

Three days later the attackers are congratulated by President Barack Obama for a job well done.

Nullo's avatar

They would either attack their attackers, or wait for demands to be made/the police to show up. For storytelling purposes, we need to know if we’re supposed to be rooting for the hostages. A surprise attack by some of the more able-bodied of the hostages could overpower the invaders (with decent chances of someone getting shot, possibly killed); after all, no amount of musculature will keep your head from being bashed in with a chair. Or heck, with 6:1 they could just dogpile them.

@MyNewtBoobs I went to a church once that met in a storefront. The only other room was a toilet.

@ragingloli I see what you did there.

lillycoyote's avatar

I think it would be possible, with some kind of scenario and character not unlike Bonnie Bedilia’s character in the first Die Hard movie.

A very smart, very cool-headed leader with a fairly sophisticated understanding of human psychology would have to emerge, someone that everyone trusted and someone who could keep the infighting, loose cannons and any individuals who might be thinking of acting alone in the group in check. Someone like that could probably make it happen. The one room would be both a problem and a help also. The leader could keep an eye on everyone and no one could act on his or her own without being seen but it would be difficult to have any secrets.

I think the major issue for the story is whether the attackers intend to kill the hostages no matter what happens or have some end game in mind. Are they just rampage killers or are they looking to get somewhere, get something from the situation and are willing to kill hostages if they have to but that is not their primary goal.

john65pennington's avatar

The main goal, in this situation, is the safety of group as a whole.

My chief concern would be the elderly that have a hearing problem, along with their diminshed physical reaction time. Even if an escape plan was devised, those that do not hear well will be danger to this plan or any plan.

If all victims were healthy, this would be a good plan: diversion.

A small group would have to devise a plan to divert the attention of the bad guys to a group of their own. Once the bad guys ran for this group, the remaining body of people would have to attack the bad guys from behind. There may be casualties, but this is really the only plan out there, considering their physical condition.

HungryGuy's avatar

Scotty should beam down all of a sudden and reverse the polarity, sending all the kidnappers into a space anomaly.

WasCy's avatar

Once the attackers break into the room, mayhem will ensue. Armed and masked people do not suddenly break into a room… to debate. They are there for a purpose: to take hostages, as you suggested, in which case they will simply take them, or to rob, beat or murder those with whom they have this dispute. Maybe all four things, in fact.

The only ways I see this resolving in favor of the people in the room (according to what you have presented) are:
1. The attackers fail to gain entry for some reason. Perhaps the plot was discovered in time and thwarted by police, another gang, or a member of the group who decided they should meet somewhere else;

2. Along those lines, the group that was intended to be in the room switched places (or times) with another group;

3. The people in the room refuse to give up their principles, die in the attempt to defend them, and have the principles themselves win in the end (martyrs);

4. Deux ex machina – basically, “a miracle happens”.

jerv's avatar


Hostage situations often imply that the assailants want something other than the destruction of hostages. The hostages are leverage to get something else; a bargaining chip. If their motivation was hatred then they likely would’ve come in guns blazing unless they felt that there was a way to inflict greater harm on the group.

That right there has me a bit baffled as to why it is a hostage situation. Bank robbers want free/safe passage out with their loot, but what do these guys want?

jaytkay's avatar

Somebody could slip out a back door at the beginning of the attack and bring help.

A couple of SWAT cops could then barge in disguised as if they were simply late to the meeting. “Sorry we’re late, but we brought coffee and doughnuts – whoa! what’s going on!”

After the cops settle in among the hostages and the attackers calm down and become less watchful – BAM!

LuckyGuy's avatar

You forgot about that one 88 year old, WWII vet who still carries his 1911 with him wherever he goes. While the others stood idle like sheep he waited for the right moment and popped off 4 accurate head shots within 1.5 seconds.
While everyone else had been going to their feel good meetings, he had been practicing at the range once a month for the past 50 years – the day he and his army buddies vowed they would never willingly become food for predators.

LuckyGuy's avatar

There was no need for the double tap on the last guy. It was a fortunate artifact of Earl’s Parkinson’s and stress. That evening, he and the widow McKeever made love like they did in their newly built Levitt homes neighborhood so long ago.

ragingloli's avatar

That night, he died of a heart attack. The End.

Raven_Rising's avatar

@HungryGuy reversing the polarity to transport the kidnapper into a space anomaly seems more like a move by The Doctor than Scotty. Remember what happened in Family of Blood? :)

The term “hostages” might be a bit misleading. As previously mentioned, “hostages” are generally used as a means to get something (money, safe passage, the freeing of a prisoner, etc), And if you intend on using them as a bargaining tool of some sort, that’s cool. However, any physical damage that you cause your hostages will diminish your bargaining power, since the majority of hostage negotiations revolve around letting them go unharmed. .

Since you mentioned that this is a “hate crime”, I imagine your attackers are planning some sort of gruesome action against said individuals. However, to know what kind of harm is falling upon the little group of captives, it would be a good idea to figure out what the attackers want to do to them. Do they just want them dead so they stop doing whatever it is that they’re doing? Or do they want their captives to suffer for their actions? What is the goal of taking them captive?

Honestly, to give any more feedback, I think I’d need some more detailed information on these two opposing groups to get a better feel for what they might do and how they might accomplish it. However, I might advise having this take place in a small privately owned two room building. It sounds like it would give you a few more options without changing too much of the storyline. Just a thought.

weeveeship's avatar

Here are further details on the story:

Story takes place in a foreign semi-industrialized country. The protagonist is a young lady.

The “small group” here is a religious minority. They are not extremists nor are they dangerous cultists. They simply want to practice their religion. Since they lack resources, they meet in the one-room building. The protagonist is part of the “small group,” and the goal would be to have the people remain unhurt as much as possible.

The three men are extremist members of the dominant religious majority. As is common in certain areas, religious tolerance can be quite low or even nonexistent in some developing countries. In the past, the dominant religious majority are ambivalent towards the religious minority. But now, there has been a sudden rise in extremism among the majority. The three men hate the religious minority and view them as abnormal freaks who are “polluting” their society.

The government in the foreign country is corrupt. Most of the police are members of the dominant religious majority. Police attitudes towards the religious minority range from
ambivalence to hatred.

The “small group” generally do not like violence. Many of them do not own guns, nor do they contemplate owning guns. Views on using deadly force to resist an attack are mixed.

There is only one wild card at the moment. That is, the protagonist has recently befriended the daughter of a powerful local businessman. This friend is also a member of the religious majority but she tolerates the views of the “small group.” She might be able to do something to help, but I’m not sure what that would be for now.

Now, a few responses to your comments:

@MyNewtBoobs They are a religious minority. By standing their ground, I mean generally trying to reason with the three men.

@optimisticpessimist I suppose that nondeadly force (such as a bum rush) could be used to disarm the three men. It would be risky though.

@Nullo Yes, we are rooting for the small group. The goal would be to keep all of them alive. If that is not possible, then at least keep as many of them alive as possible.

@lillycoyote Yes, we will definitely need a leader (perhaps the religious leader of the group) to act least coordinate the response to the attackers. We would not want a few of the group to just go ballistic.

@john65pennington Possible.

@WasCy 3 is one possible ending. 4, of course, is the preferred ending. I need to find a realistic deux ex machina, though.

@jerv Hostage might not be the right word here, but it is the closest to what I want to express. The three men are doing this out of hate.

@Raven_Rising The men just want the group dead. Yes, I can change the building to one with two rooms. What are some options that are available with a two room building that would not be available with a one room building?


optimisticpessimist's avatar

If they wanted them dead, why would they not just go in with guns blazing? Is there someone in the room they do not want to harm?

weeveeship's avatar

@optimisticpessimist The three guys are actually chicken. All three are young punks who want to look macho. Sure, they plan to have the group dead. The actual execution of that plan is a different story.

Nullo's avatar

Hmm. You might not need to overpower them at all. If it’s in keeping with your minority religion, one of the defenders could talk them down. In Christian fiction this sort of thing often ends amicably, with some or all of the offenders coming to respect or even accept the faith of their erstwhile persecutees.

Nullo's avatar

I can see it now. The young toughs kick the door down and storm into the room, guns waving around. The congregation is stunned into silence, balanced precariously on the edge of raw panic. The preacher looks up from the passage that he was reading, and in a display of titanium nerves says, “Welcome, brothers. Have a seat; there is room for all in the house of the Lord.”

jerv's avatar

@Nullo As long as the cops don’t do the Speed thing; “Shoot the hostage.”

LuckyGuy's avatar

@ragingloli But he had a smile on his face.

Hibernate's avatar

If hate was what motivated them to enter then after they calmed down after entering they start beating the poor fellows.
Assuming it’s pure hate then they kill one of them. [ not the preacher because the others weren’t talking anything because they were too stunned ].

But I do know how it could possibly end [ yet / I need a few days to think about it ]

Hibernate's avatar

Maybe “kill” the leader then the followers then follow the life of the killers to make hem suicidal or make them change their life completely.

Hope it helps.

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