By Brian Bullock
Pilot Staff Writer
Law enforcement from around the state converged on a Cape Ferrelo area home Monday to help diffuse a tense situation in which a man was threatening suicide.
Just after midnight Tuesday, the man surrendered without incident. It ended nearly 18 hours of conversation, negotiation and pleas from family members.
The despondent 29-year-old captured the attention of the Brookings Police and Curry County Sheriff's Deputies Monday morning when his wife reported he had been drinking, was suicidal and was at his mother's Pacific Crest Drive home. It was also reported that there were guns in the home.
Throughout the day, the response by law enforcement grew to include members of the Oregon State Police SWAT team. Paramedics from Cal-Ore Life Flight were also on the scene.
"Our goal here was to get this gentleman in custody without him hurting himself or others," explained Curry County Sheriff Kent Owens, who was in contact with the man throughout the day. "He was armed and he was threatening to kill himself."
Because the man's mother was also in the home, law enforcement officers had to treat the incident like a hostage situation, Owens said. That is why state police SWAT was called in from around the state. Surrounding houses were evacuated.
"We were wondering from time to time if there was a hostage because his mother was there," Owens explained. "She was there because she wanted to be involved. The potential was there, though, for that type of situation."
With the man's mother in her home, a number of people were called to speak with him. Pastor Jim Bollin, of the Seventh Day Adventists Church, a drug and alcohol counselor from Curry County Mental Health, and Brookings Police Lt. John Bishop and the man's father were all contacted.
Bishop was called in because he has training in hostage negotiation. Both Bishop and Owens said the situation was touch-and-go throughout the day. Owens said there were times he thought the situation would resolve itself peacefully and other times he held out little hope.
"We thought we had it pretty well lined up to where that would happen around 3:30 or 4 p.m.," Owens said of a possible surrender.
But the situation deteriorated and two dozen state police SWAT team members, including three negotiators, were called in. SWAT team members came from as far away as Portland and Eugene. An armored vehicle was also called in but didn't reach the scene and was not needed.
The SWAT team, Cal-Ore Life Flight, county sheriffs and Brookings police used the Cape Ferrelo Fire Station to stage their effort.
Bishop was called in to negotiate with the man at approximately 4:30 p.m. Bishop said there were times when the man came out of the house and pointed a hand gun at officers, challenging them. He was in conversation with the man prior to surrendering to authorities.
"We felt he was getting tired. We have him an ultimatum and he decided it was time to come out," Bishop said.
By the time he surrendered, SWAT team members had replaced sheriff's deputies around the house. He was taken into custody and transported to Curry General Hospital for evaluation.
Early Tuesday morning, he was transferred to a mental health facility in Roseburg.
"Normally, the general thought is the longer you talk to him, the better the chances for a peaceful resolution," Owens said. "This was a really unpredictable situation, though."