Dramatic domestic violence rescue followed by SERT foray

Even after police used a ladder to help a woman escape from a Brentwood-Darlington home, the man involved didn’t give up. See why SE 52nd Avenue was shut down while cops lobbed canisters of tear gas into that house ‚Ķ

SE Rex Drive, west of 52nd Avenue, quickly fills with public safety workers and vehicles, when it becomes obvious that a domestic disturbance is about to escalate.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Neighbors around the house in the 4800 block of secluded SE Rex Drive say the man’s behavior wasn’t typical ‚Äì in fact he was definitely acting abnormally on March 1.

At 3:45 pm, Portland Police Bureau Southeast Precinct officers respond to a reported domestic disturbance at the home.

When we arrive on scene, we learn there is dispute between a man and a woman. The man is holding the woman against her will.

Dramatic second-story rescue
“When officers arrive,” police spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz tells us, “they learn the man threatened a female in the house with a knife; and she’s hiding in an upstairs room of the house.”

Officers work quickly to bring the woman to safety by putting a ladder up to the window, and then rescue her by pulling her through a second-story window.

It doesn’t take long from SE 52nd Avenue to turn into a parking lot filled with all kinds of emergency-response vehicles.

Makes threats instead of giving up
We note two fire engines in the area. “The man made statements he was barricading himself in the home, or was going to burn the home,” explains Schmautz.

Officers attempted to contact the troubled man, Schmautz says, but after he made several threats, officers activate the bureau’s Special Emergency Response Team (SERT).

SE 52nd Avenue, between SE Flavel Drive and SE Harney Avenue is shut down. “Public safety is our primary concern,” says a sergeant, in passing.

SE Precinct Commander Derek Foxworth (left) takes charge of the unfolding situation, and briefs Public Information Officer Sgt. Brian Schmautz on the status of the operation.

From all over the city, members of SERT roll on-scene. Soon, SE 52nd Avenue is filled with patrol cars and off-duty SERT member vehicles.

Officers “suit up” as a temporary command center is set up. They dress in Kevlar vests and camouflage jackets; check their weapons; and get ready for deployment.

SERT moves in
Using restraint typical of SERT operations we’ve observed; they don’t rush in shooting.

The heavily-armored SERT vehicle snakes its way south on SE 52nd Ave., turns west on SE Rex Drive, and moves into position near the house in which a man refuses to surrender.

Instead, the heavily armed team members quickly remove neighbors from surrounding homes and seal off the area. Then, they take positions surrounding the house. SERT K-9 teams suit up and take positions.

At the same time, trained SERT negotiators establish communication and endeavor to talk the man into surrendering.

At the Mobile Command Center, a huge RV-looking vehicle, SE Precinct Commander Derek Foxworth and the command staff listen to the negotiators and the SERT team leaders.

“If the negotiators believe that talking is fruitful, they’ll continue to talk as long as it is reasonable,” Schmautz tells us. “But when the suspect starts becoming irrational, or starts making statements leading them to believe he will cause harm to himself to the community by his actions, the commander will direct SERT to deploy gas and enter.”

Negotiations break down
As night falls on this particular rainy evening, the negotiators talk with the man, seen pacing in the house for more than an hour. But, talking doesn’t lead him to come out.

At 6:16 p.m., the sound of shells being fired can be heard ‚Äì it’s the SERT team, shooting tear gas into the house.

A few minutes later, “Pop, pop, pop” ‚Äì more shells are lobbed into the residence. “They’ll use enough tear gas or other less-lethal means to gain compliance as necessary,” Schmautz comments.

As night falls, bystanders’ eyes began to sting, as wafts of tear gas came from the house where a man was holed up.

Still, the troubled man doesn’t exit. For 40 minutes, more and more tear gas floods the residence. The man breaks a window, trying to escape the tear gas.

Finally, surrender
Just before 7:00 p.m., the man, later identified as 50-year-old Gaylon Amen, gives up and comes out.

“Amen apparently sustained some non-life threatening injuries when he broke out a window to escape the gas,” Schmautz tells us. “Amen is being transported for medical attention, and will be charged with one count of Menacing and one count of Assault in the Fourth Degree.”

Schmautz says police has little information about Amen, other than that “we’ve had some prior criminal contact with him. For whatever reason, he was having a severe episode. It could be a medication or a mental health issue.”

The police representative adds that their Domestic Violence Unit will work with the rescued woman to assure her future safety.

The mission accomplished, SERT members disperse.

Many police officers called up for this SERT mission were off duty. They stripped off their gear, got in their vehicles and returned home.

“A good mission,” a SERT officer commented to us, in passing. “Everyone’s going home safely, and perhaps this individual will get the help he needs.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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