This month Greenwich Police have dealt with two separate incidents involving men threatening to harm themselves with knives, one on March 8 and one March 13.
“We had two instances where the officers used extraordinary restraint in potentially deadly force situations,” said Captain Kraig Gray. “Those present at the time realize how badly this could have gone.”
No one was arrested and no one was hurt in either situation. Both incidents ended with the subject being sent to the hospital.
“There are many instances so people know we do more than just lock people up,” Gray said, adding that police share arrest reports with the media, and in these cases no arrests were made.
In the March 8 incident, multiple units responded to a call on the west side of town around 5:30pm in which a male subject was threatening to harm himself with a knife.
Captain Gray said the person was dealing with a long-term substance use problem.
“His parents were trying to manage the household when their son became enraged, erratic, threatening, and a danger to himself and others,” Gray said. “So they called us.”
During the incident, Gray said the man came outside of the house holding a large kitchen knife in his hand, and had other knives on him.
“He was clearly under the influence of narcotics and made mention of forcing Greenwich Police to shoot him,” Gray continued.
In that incident, Lt Eric Scorca, who is trained in hostage negotiations dealt with the distraught man.
“He went in with the tactic of, ‘We have time, we can talk and diffuse the situation,'” Gray said. “Even though the man was threatening and belligerent, Lt Scorca calmed him down and got him the help needed.”
In the second incident, which took place late in the afternoon on the east side of town on March 13, officers Ericka Garcia and Dave Swift handled the incident.
The two officers responded to a report of a severely intoxicated male and they responded to check on his welfare.
“Again, the person became completely erratic and pulled the knife from his pocket and put it to his throat, demanding that the officers shoot him because he wanted to die,” Gray said, adding that the man was intoxicated, belligerent and erratic. “He was clearly in need of medical assistance.”
Gray said the man pulled a knife out of his picket and put it up to his neck and asked the officers to shoot him. The officers backed up, got distance and were able to calm the man down. “They got him rational and got the knife away from him,” Gray said.
Captain Gray said police are trained to de-escalate this type of situation and often do not end up using force, instead using de-escalating techniques.
“People don’t understand how often these situations occur,” Gray said. “It happens more often than you think.”
In Greenwich from March 1, 2017 to March 1, 2018 there were 17 suicide attempts and 4 suicides in Greenwich.
In the same period there were 173 mental illness crisis situations requiring police intervention.
All of our officers deal with these scenarios on a regular basis, and partner with agencies like the DuBois Center, an addiction and mental health agency, to get people the help they need.
Captain Gray said often people only call the police when a situation becomes untenable. “Be a bit more proactive for yourself and family. Call 211 if you need counseling,” he said. “Don’t let it to get to the point where you’re run out of options.”