How the Red River Valley SWAT Team trains for and handles hostage situations

FARGO — The commander of Red River Valley SWAT says he can't remember the last time his team had to negotiate a hostage situation.

"It's very rare," said Lt. Bill Ahlfeldt with the Fargo Police Department, who has been a member of the SWAT team for 16 years, and its leader for the past five.

There have been cases where the team was called in for a hostage situation in recent years, he said, but all have been resolved before SWAT ever arrived.

However, the team trains about once a month for situations like the one that unfolded the night of Monday, Sept. 16, when a man was thought to have barricaded himself inside a home with two young girls in a neighborhood south of the North Dakota State University campus.

The man, now identified by authorities as Brandon Grant , reportedly ran away as police came to break up a domestic disturbance and authorities at one point thought it could have been a hostage situation after he ran and locked himself in a home with two girls. There were indications that he may have had a weapon and was holding a 3-year-old and 9-year-old girl against their will.


"There is definitely a different level of concern because we are dealing with a child who is innocent," said Ahfeldt, speaking in general terms but not specifically commenting on the incident Monday night.

Ahfeldt said in situations like Monday's, protecting lives is the number one priority. There's the hostage, other innocent civilians, police officers and then the suspect.

In cases where there is a hostage, the SWAT team will move faster and take risks they would not take during a typical standoff.

"In a hostage situation, the hostage-taker at first dictates how we are going to respond," Ahfeldt explained. "But eventually what we want to do is take control of the situation."

On Monday night, the SWAT team sent in a robot to try and get a view of who was in the home and what was going on. With no action for three hours, they eventually set off a flash-bang device to distract and disorient the man inside the home.

But the man did not come out because he was already gone. The 3 and 9-year-old girls inside, however, ran out the back door. They were unaware of what was going on until the device was set off.

"The scenarios we put together (and) the training we put together are harder than what we think we are going to find in real life," Ahfeldt said.

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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