An Itawamba County law enforcement officer has been invited to speak at a hostage negotiator’s convention due to his role in ending December’s 32-hour standoff in Golden.
Capt. Mike Newlin with the Itawamba County Sheriff’s Department has been asked to be among the guest speakers during the 41st Annual Hostage Negotiation Seminar in Baltimore in February. The event is hosted annually by the Baltimore Police Department. An estimated 800 hostage negotiators and other law enforcement officers from across the United States and Canada are expected to attend.
Although details are still being finalized, Itawamba County Sheriff Chris Dickinson said the Baltimore Police Department has offered to pay for Newlin’s travel and expenses. All he has to do is show up and speak.
Newlin’s hour-long portion of the seminar will focus on his experience during December’s 32-hour standoff at a home on Alice Hall Road in Golden. Newlin was the primary contact between suspect Nathan Shepard, an unnamed 10-year-old hostage, and local law enforcement agents. During the standoff – the longest in state history – Newlin and Shepard communicated 42 times. Their calls ranged from just a few moments to nearly a half-hour in length.
Prior to the beginning of the standoff, Shepard is believed to have shot and killed his hostage’s father.
Shepard was shot dead by law enforcement agents after he released his hostage to use the bathroom. The young hostage was uninjured.
Representatives with the Baltimore Police Department told Newlin the length of the standoff, its successful outcome, and Newlin’s inexperience with hostage negotiation prior to the standoff make for an unique story, one they felt would benefit participants of their annual seminar.
Asked what he planned to speak about, Newlin said he wants to be honest about what he considers to be the successes and failures during the standoff.
“What went good; what went bad. What worked; what didn’t work,” he said.
Although inexperienced, Newlin continued to negotiate with Shepard following the arrival of agents with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Special Weapons and Tactics Team. He was instructed to continue communicating with Shepard and his hostage because of the rapport that had developed between them.
It was an extraordinary situation, though Newlin is quick to downplay his role.
“For me, I was just doing my job,” Newlin said.
Newlin will be just one of many speakers during the two-day seminar. He expects to return to Itawamba County with information that could prove invaluable should another standoff occur.
“It can happen right here,” he said. “It’s one of those things that happened, and I hope it will never happen again. But if it does, I hope to have all the knowledge I can.”
Newlin said he was honored to be asked to speak as part of the seminar, although he acknowledged being somewhat intimidated by the invitation. No doubt, he’ll be speaking to law enforcement agents more experienced in hostage negotiation.
“You’re talking about 800 of your peers,” he said. “This is what they do daily.”
It’s a nerve-wracking proposition.
Although he know knows he won’t be the most experienced speaker there, Newlin’s hoping his fellow law enforcement officers will leave his presentation with a greater sense of resolve. If there’s one thing he took away from the standoff, it’s how to roll with the punches.
“[S]tay with it and stick to it, even through the highs and lows,” Newlin said. Don’t give up.
“If you do that, good things can happen,” he said. “In our situation, a little 10-year-old girl was able to live the rest of her life.”