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Man with knives attempts ‘suicide by cop,’ Mass. police de-escalate

The de-escalation tactics used by the officers saved the 69-year-old’s life, said Bridgewater Police Chief Christopher Delmonte

By Marc Larocque
The Enterprise

BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – A knife-wielding Bridgewater man determined to die at the hands of police was spared through the use of de-escalation tactics and a Taser, according to the police department.

“This was a prime example of professional police officers using their training to resolve a serious and potentially tragic situation, and I wish to commend and recognize all of the officers involved in this call,” said Bridgewater Police Chief Christopher Delmonte. “The officers relied on their training, exercised good judgment, worked as a team, took decisive action early and followed established protocols for dealing with persons in a mental health crisis. This man was capable of hurting many people, including himself and responding officers.”

This incident took place recently on Center Street, where officers responded to a 911 call for a mentally unstable man. Police were able to reach the man by phone, and he told an officer that he wanted to “kill someone.”

When Bridgewater police officers Christopher Rondeau and James Doherty arrived, they were confronted by the 69-year-old man holding three large kitchen knives, who began charging at the officers, police said.

“When the officers approached the home, a 69-year-old Bridgewater man with a muscular build exited the house with his shirt off and carrying two knives in one hand and a third knife in the other,” said Bridgewater police, in a statement about the Aug. 23 incident. “The man was aggressive and began to charge toward the officers with the knives. The officers backed away, drew their firearms and ordered the man to stop and drop the weapons.”

Bridgewater police said the attempted “suicide by cop” continued after several other officers arrived, including Gino Sergio, Nicholas Mantalos, Clint Apaza, and Steven Kingsley with his K9 police dog Papi. The 69-year-old told the officers that he wanted them to “shoot him,” Bridgewater police said.

“It became clear to the officers that this was a serious mental health situation, which the officers are trained to respond to due to their training in dealing with mental health, critical incidents and de-escalation,” Bridgewater police said. “They told the man they did not want to hurt him and some of the officers holstered their firearms and transitioned to their Taser-brand electronic control devices.”

Bridgewater police said that through their de-escalation efforts, the officers were able to convince the man to drop two of the knives.

But then the 69-year-old threatened to harm himself with the third knife, raising the large blade above his head in both hands, making a plunging motion toward his stomach as if he was getting ready to stab himself. That’s when police took decisive action.

“When the man raised the knife above his head again, Officer Doherty deployed his Taser, striking the man in his hip and shin,” Bridgewater police said. “The Taser deployment caused the man to drop the knife and fall to the ground, at which point the officers quickly moved in to get the knife away from the man and safely detain him.”

After he was subdued with a Taser, the 69-year-old fell to the ground, injuring his shoulder.

[Suicide by cop: 15 warning signs that you might be involved]

Shift supervisor Sgt. Jack Hennessey filed for the man to undergo a mental health evaluation, Bridgewater police said, making sure he was transported to a local hospital in a Bridgewater Fire Department ambulance. No criminal charges were filed against the man, police said.

“Because of the actions of the responding officers, they were able to de-escalate the man’s actions and prevented serious injury or possible death to both the man and officers,” Bridgewater police said in statement.

Delmonte said the de-escalation tactics used by the officers saved the 69-year-old’s life. This comes as police across the country have faced scrutiny over officer-involved shootings and the use of force when responding to mental health crises, with some critics of law enforcement calling for social workers to replace or join police when responding to these types of incidents.

“When we put our uniforms on every day, we never know what that day may bring, and that includes a human being in the midst of a mental health crisis, rushing out of his home with knives in each hand, charging toward our officers,” Delmonte said. “Thanks to their professionalism, this man is still alive today and is getting help.”