July 13, 2021 — New York State Police sought the assistance of PEF Parole Officer Karen Hoth during a tense hostage standoff June 8, 2021, after one of her parolees led them on a high-speed chase, caused a fiery crash, and took off into the nearby woods with a hostage.
“It was very, very intense,” said Hoth, who first joined PEF in 1996 as a drug and alcohol counselor before going to the academy for parole in 2005. She has worked in the field since 2016. “I’m his parole officer, so I was called to see if I could give the State Police hostage negotiators any information that could assist them.”
Forty-three-year-old Hiram Rivera was accused of burglary, strangulation and grand larceny after an incident the night before the standoff. Hoth was familiar with the suspect after supervising him for about a year. During the three-hour standoff, she spoke directly with Rivera, first by cell phone and then by other means after he tossed the phone.
“They weren’t having luck talking to the individual, so they asked if I could try talking to him,” she said. “I have a pretty good relationship with my parolees and they respect me. When you supervise these people you get a feeling for how they operate and you know their history.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” she said. “At first, I called his phone and was talking to him on my state phone. I was doing my best and once they saw it was effective, they would give me tips on what to do.”
Hoth said the technology deployed during the standoff was impressive.
“You don’t really realize all the technology that law enforcement has until you’re in a situation like that,” she said. At points during the standoff, a robot delivered water, cigarettes and other items requested by Rivera and law enforcement was able to lock down who Rivera could contact with his phone.
Technology wasn’t all the multiple agencies brought to the scene.
During the standoff, Hoth said she was at one point standing next to a sniper. Media reports said Erie County Sheriff’s Office deployed tactical resources, SWAT members and snipers to hold down the scene.
Hoth praised all the agencies involved and said everyone worked together to achieve the peaceful outcome.
“I’m glad that I could help and I’m glad that he listened,” Hoth said. “I’m glad that I was able to talk him into letting her [the hostage] go and I’m glad nobody got hurt, law enforcement, him or his hostage. It could have ended very badly.”