I was working the afternoon shift in a marked patrol assignment. Once I had my cruiser loaded I called in service to Dispatch.
“Baker 12 copy a suicide in progress.”
Someone had called in and said a subject was threatening to kill himself. The caller related that the subject was in the water, at the boat launch, and had a knife to his wrist.
I go like a bat outta hell and arrive within minutes, having just a few miles to cover between the Station and the location. When I arrive I find the subject waist deep in the lake with a dull butter knife to his wrist. He starts telling me to back up or he was going to kill himself.
“What’s your name friend?”
“John drop the knife and get out of the water. I can find help for you”.
John complied almost immediately and began apologizing for his behavior. I walked him back to his apartment talking with him along the way. Suicidal subjects can be dangerous but I didn’t sense that in him. He was just a skinny, wet frightened man. He was alone and confused.
On these types of calls our policy dictated that a team of Mental Health professionals be contacted. I called them and briefed them on the situation and they came out and interviewed John. After a couple of hours they decided that John’s threatened suicide was nothing more that a call for attention and scheduled a follow up visit with him. Everyone agreed that John wasn’t a danger to himself or others and we all left.
This was the Second time I was dispatched to John’s apartment – another suicide in progress call. John called Dispatch and said he was going to hang himself. Upon arrival (Single entry door into the common area of 4 apartments – 2 up 2 down) I see John at the top of the stair landing with a clothesline around his neck and the other end around the banister. I just walked up the stairs and cut the rope and took John back inside his apartment. Again I called the Mental Health pros and they again responded to the scene. After a few more hours of interview they again stated that John was not a danger to anyone and that he was only calling out for attention.
This was the third time I was sent back to John’s on a suicide in progress within my work week. John was becoming a problem. Again John called it in himself, telling the Dispatcher that he was “Really gonna do it this time.” I didn’t run a signal and took my time getting there.
John was back in the water but now he had a sharper knife. It took me a little longer but I talked him into dropping the knife and coming out of the water. I took him back to his apartment and again called the Mental Health people.
This time the team decided they would not respond to the scene. The Psychiatrist said, “Michael create a story that will impress upon John the potential consequences of his actions. Find some way to tell him that he may cause a greater harm”.
I hang up the phone and started talking to John…
I act shaky and tense. “John you ain’t gonna believe what just about happened. I was running a signal to get here to help you and I almost ran over a little girl. She was playing at the entrance to your apartment complex and I didn’t see her rushing to get here. Man it was so close. My heart is still beating a mile a minute.”
“Here feel this”, and I placed his hand over my heart. Whatever he felt was in his mind as I was wearing a bulletproof vest.
While still holding his hand to my chest I looked him right in his eyes and said, “John, I almost killed that child and you would have been to blame. You’ve got to stop doing this.”
John’s eyes widened and for the first time I think he did realize the consequences of his actions. Tears stung his face and he was remorseful.
“I’m so sorry Deputy Mike, you don’t have to worry about me calling you guys anymore.”
I got called back to John’s for the last time. A neighbor heard a gunshot. I got there quick and found the front door to John’s apartment slightly ajar. I think he left it that way for me.
I pushed the door open, gun in hand, and entered. I saw John in the living room sitting in a big recliner. He had placed a .45 caliber handgun under his chin and pulled the trigger.
What a mess…
NOTE: I felt a little funny for creating such a vivid image for John but this one doesn’t bother me. I tried my best to help but couldn’t.
© 2015, Michael Fulcher. All rights reserved.