Recounting a weekend kidnapping

As the lazy nature of a summer afternoon set in, Randy Fitzner was overcome by masked men drawing weapons on him and his son. These men screamed for them to get on the ground. Fitzner and his son were being kidnapped.

A black bag was slipped over both of their heads, shutting the light from outside. Their wrists were tightly bound with flex cuffs and their bodies thrown into the back of a van.

Randy and his son were not alone, as the van was filled with several kidnapped persons. All were driven to an isolated warehouse, where Fitzner alone was lashed tightly to a tree outside.

“My son was taken away from me and placed in a cell separate from me, I was cuffed so much there was no way I could get free,” Fitzner said.

Fitzner waited hopelessly with only the company of a tree and a guard. Without warning, the bindings on his wrists were cut and the tension on his hands relieved.

Turning around, he was greeted with the face of his son, leading the group of formally captive men who were watching warily for guards.

Fitzner’s son – who, though only 11 years old at the time, had already gone through multiple levels of a self-defence course – making him the natural leader for an escape.

Training for kidnapping

Such events might seem far-fetched to many, but they’re unfortunately not so for Fitzner, who as the director of Cass Canada, manages security efforts in the oil and gas industry, including kidnapping risk management and protective details.

Fitnzer has been all over the world including Columbia and Middle East on protective and tactical security missions for the private sector, but he found the course to be a completely different experience.The Spy Games Adventure Weekend tests civillians in a real world kidnapping situation.
Photo by: Kammryn Dancy

He’s also asked to not reveal his son’s name for security reasons due to the nature of his business in high profile security.

This scenario was all a part of the Spy Games Adventure Weekend, a Calgary-area course that teaches attendees how to operate weaponry, learn tactical advantages including infiltration, and do everything that goes with escaping captivity, including breaking out of handcuffs.

“It’s so real you don’t even question what is happening, there is so much adrenaline,” Fitzner said.

The Calgary program is conducted with ex-military personnel as guards and it all feels real, Fitzner said, noting that his “captors” spoke Russian and Arabic, and were convincing as the bad guys.

Kerry Suave led the weekend program mounted by StreetSense Safety Inc.

“We teach you all the real world stuff, interrogation resistance, escaping bonds all that stuff,” Suave said.

“Then what we do is we put you head-to-head against 12 other ex-military guys who are playing terrorists.”

Suave, a prison guard at a maximum-security facility, has extensive training with four black belts, 40 years in hand-to-hand combat arts, and 20 years of experience as an instructor and member of the RCMP emergency response team.

The Spy Games Adventure Weekend program started when Suave met Sheldon Maxwell, who has extensive training in the military and is a tactical firearms expert.

“We said to each other, it would be really fun to do a fun version of this course for civilians,” said Suave, noting that the program is filled with, “20-hour days of interrogation, escaping bonds, serious stuff normally for serious soldiers who are going overseas.”

 “They go all out. You’re trained for the real stuff, you’re never going to know when you are going to be attacked, and they hit you good.”
— Randy Fitzner,
Cass Canada

The weekend adventure takes place on a four-acre ranch south of Calgary, complete with a compound and endless horizons as a backdrop to the action.

Maxwell – currently stationed at a U.S. army base in Nevada – is also a licensed film pyro technician.

“This year we are looking at some pyrotechnics and fire, a lot of explosions going off,” said Suave.

Adrenaline-charged experience

Suave and Maxwell host the adventure weekends in Calgary mainly during the summer months, though their most recent weekend took place in March. They also host similar experiences in Las Vegas throughout the year.

“One Vegas group wanted to use police ammunition (rubber bullets) which would hurt like hell, ’cause down there we have ex-delta and ex-special forces you can go up against,” Suave said.

“They go all out. You’re trained for the real stuff, you’re never going to know when you are going to be attacked, and they hit you good,” said Fitzner who has also taken StreetSense Safety’s self-defence courses with his son.

“We both keep escape kits on us at all times, we always keep them in our shoes just incase,” said Fitzner, of his real-world preparations.

Fitzner’s son added that he wants to be in the military, use guns, be a spy and always be on an adventure.

The weekend course utilizes air soft rifles, which use air to propel small round projectile around 400 feet per second.

“These guards are wearing 40 pounds of armour so that when these people get out of cuffs and attack the guard and take the guy out, (they can) go the whole nine yards,” Suave said.

“It’s so adrenaline-charged, (participants) don’t know that it is not real.”

Suave and his crew film the weekend, setting up personnel with helmet cams and placing hand-held cameras strategically around the compound.

At the end of the weekend, participants are given a copy of the captured footage to experience the adventure again.

“We make it difficult for them and it’s tough. You may hurt a little. It’s a real-world situation, but we take that danger away. We’re not going to injure you. We had an 11-year-old have the time of his life,” Suave said.

kdancy@cjournal.ca