ST. GEORGE — It was the second TASER to be deployed on an individual by the St. George Police Department Saturday when officers used a TASER to stop a man allegedly charging at police while yelling at officers to shoot him.
Officers responded to a neighborhood on the west side of St. George on a report of a suicidal person, St. George Police Sgt. Spencer Holmes said. Family of the 31-year-old suicidal man told police the man had taken prescription painkillers and had cut his wrists before leaving a St. George residence.
The man was located nearby as he was walking away from the house. When officers tried to stop and talk to him, the man became agitated and was manipulating his hands inside his pockets, Holmes said. Because there was a knife reportedly involved in the cutting just prior to officers’ arrival on scene, the officers kept their distance.
“The individual requested the officers shoot him and was trying to facilitate a lethal confrontation,” Holmes said.
The officers talked to the man and were initially able to calm him down for a brief period of time and the man sat down during their negotiation, Holmes said. However, the situation soon escalated.
“The male charged officers and was reaching into his pockets, while yelling at officers to shoot him, in an attempt to force the officer to shoot him,” the St. George Police Department said in a media statement issued Monday. “He was trying to convince the officers he had a weapon in an effort to be shot by the officers.”
The backup officer, who was also the backup officer in another TASER incident earlier that day at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel, deployed his TASER on the man to stop him from causing any harm, Holmes said. The man was safely taken into custody and transported to Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George to undergo a mental health evaluation.
“Just from knowing this officer, he is a very smart officer who graduated with honors from his university,” Holmes said. “You’re not going to outsmart this officer. He just had a calm head and reverted to the training that we receive in our department.”
Holmes said officers go through extensive crisis intervention and team training exercises that focus on dealing with suicidal people with mental illness. The training, he said, is set up to simulate scenarios where officers must safely attempt to negotiate with a suicidal person while still maintaining protection for themselves.
“In this instance, where a knife was alleged to be involved, the officers maintained distance of over 20 feet, used their cars as cover and positioned themselves so that one person could talk while the other person maintained some sort of safety overwatch over the incident,” Holmes said, and added:
You don’t want to get into a hand-to-hand use of force with someone with a knife. Where he’s refusing to move his hands from his pocket, a knife has been involved and the officers need to maintain their distance is why the application of the TASER in this incident was the appropriate tool to use and, luckily, was effective.
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