Police coax suicidal man to safety

Take a look, and see how police training and practice ended a potentially violent situation …

Along SE Bybee Boulevard, police and paramedics gather, responding to a man in mental health crisis, just south – on a dead-end street.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

What started as an early morning burglary call, turned into an hours-long standoff on Thursday, November 13, in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood.

More police arrive at the scene.

On that morning, at 6:12 a.m., Portland Police Bureau (PPB) East Precinct officers responded to a residence in the 7100 block of Southeast 81st Place, a short, dead-end cul-de-sac off SE Bybee Boulevard.

Officers didn’t find a burglar there; but they did come across an adult male outside a home, standing on a vehicle, threatening to stab himself with two large knives.

Neighbors are sheltered in an off-duty TriMet bus.

While an officer talked with the distraught man, others quietly evacuated nearby residents, offering them shelter against the freezing cold wintery wind in a off-duty TriMet bus.

“Officers talked with the man, who was experiencing a mental health crisis, until Crisis Negotiators could respond,” PPB Public Information Officer Sgt. Pete Simpson told us.

PPB Crisis Negotiators arrive and take charge of the situation.

Although PPB SERT officers were called to the scene, police command staff showed restraint by keeping them back, and moving other officers away from the immediate area.

And, command staff asked that an ambulance at the scene be moved into the subject’s view, as negotiators offered medical care to the individual.

The man, sitting on a vehicle in 34° weather, refused to budge, many times – while assuring officers he would not act violently against them.

Ready, in case they’re needed, are PPB SERT officers standing by at a distance.

Finally, the six-hour standoff ended when the 53-year-old man surrendered to SERT offices. “He was transported to a Portland hospital for a mental health evaluation,” Simpson said. “He suffered minor, self-inflicted cuts during this incident.”

A neighbor, Roberto, was one of several people on SE 82nd Avenue watching the scenario unfold. “Look at all the police there,” Roberto said as he waited for a bus. “If he only has knives, why don’t they rush him, or shoot him?” he asked.

After the troubled man surrenders, responding officers head back to their patrol districts.

After the situation was over, East Portland News put his question to Sgt. Simpson.

“Today’s actions were a perfect example of everything going right,” Simpson replied. “That is: A man so desperately needing medical and mental health assistance will now receive it, thanks to the patience and professionalism of the officers at the scene.

“The Bureau’s first priority in situations like these,” Simpson added, “is to resolve them peacefully, while protecting officers and the general public.

“Sometimes, a large police presence is needed to secure an area to safely allow negotiators to talk with a person in a mental health crisis and give them time to de-escalate.”

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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