Vignette > Cool Hostage
In July 1979, following an armed robbery in San Rafael and a police chase, a fleeing suspect abandoned his car and ran to a house next door to the Homestead Valley Fire Station. Armed with a gun, he kicked in the door, forced Orville Erringer to leave and held his wife Letty hostage. 40 police agents flocked to the scene. A command post was set up at the fire station. Officers from the San Rafael tactical squad dressed in camouflage outfits and armed with automatic rifles surrounded the house. Sheriff’s negotiators set up phone contact with the suspect. They credited Letty’s para-professional training in counseling with helping to keep him calm. After four hours as a hostage, Letty emerged and calmly handed the gun to Sheriff Howenstein. A negotiator entered the house handcuffed the suspect and took him away. Marin County Sheriff Al Howenstein then had to deal with several newspaper reporters and cameras from 4 TV stations. The three Erringer children had arrived during the event and joined their father in the fire station. Orville, Letty and the children, managed to avoid the press by climbing over the fire station fence, jumping in their car and driving off to Red Boy Pizza.