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Scott D. Pierce: Salt Lake library hostage incident retold on ABC’s ‘In an Instant’

First Published      Last Updated Jun 22 2017 03:21 pm

For the second time in a year, Utah takes center stage in "20/20: In an Instant."

On June 25, 2016, an episode titled "Murder in the Maternity Ward" retold the story of the man who took hostages at Alta View Hospital in Sandy in 1991 and killed a nurse.

Saturday's episode (8 p.m., ABC/Channel 4), titled "Terror in the Library," recounts the 1994 incident when a man with guns and a bomb took hostages at the Salt Lake City Main Library — and was thwarted by an off-duty policeman who surreptitiously joined the group as the standoff began.




"When this one came across my desk, I said, 'Wow! That's crazy! It's in the same city around the same time,' " said executive producer Maria Awes. "You guys went through a lot of stuff then."

(Not the same city, but close.)

"In an Instant" tells sensational stories without sensationalizing them. There's no narrator; it's all the recollections of people involved.

"Our goal is really to tell these stories and give them the time and the attention that they deserve," Awes said. "For the survivors to really walk us through all the elements of these stories from beginning to end.

"You want to just hear that raw emotion and experience that right along with them."

This episode prominently features then-Salt Lake County Sheriff's Lt. Lloyd Prescott, whose heroic actions saved his fellow hostages. Former hostages Gwen Page and Michael Greer also appear, along with then-SLCPD SWAT Sgt. Ken Hansen; then-SLCPD hostage negotiator Sgt. Phil Kirk; and Tricia Griffith, who was then the program director at radio station Z-93, who was contacted directly by the schizophrenic hostage-taker, Clifford Draper.

It's an edge-of-your seat story. Lives hung in the balance. But, again, it's not overdramatized.

"These stories don't need to be sensationalized — nor should they be," Awes said. "I don't think there's a need to build drama. It's already there.

"This show really is about survival. It's about inspiration. It's not focused on the elements that are frequently the topics of crime-based programming."

It's been 23 years, but Greer, Page and Griffith are still clearly emotional on camera.

"We tell people it can be kind of a cathartic experience," Awes said. "We've seen that to be true in many cases. We don't have anyone who has ever said, 'Gosh, I wish I wouldn't have done that.' "

Prescott tells his story matter-of-factly, as befitting a man who kept his cool in an incredibly dangerous situation.

"Lloyd Prescott was a hero in my mind even before this happened," Kirk says on camera. "He's like a superhero now."

And Prescott praises the other hostages, insisting what he did "was my job. It was my duty."

The rest of us can identify with Awes' reaction: "The more that I do these stories, the more happy I am that my life is maybe dull," she said.

Scott D. Pierce covers TV for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.

 

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