I am not sure where he came from, or who he was, but I was pretty darn sure he wasn’t were he was supposed to be. And there he was, in the blazing mid-day afternoon sun, standing in the middle of the roof of a bungalow on a residential street. A hammer in one hand and knife in another, he came to the front of the roof, waving his knife at us and yelling loudly “Please shoot me Officers. Just do it.” I asked him to take a step back, nervous for how close he was to the edge of the roof. Didn’t need him to accidentally fall off and impale himself. He cooperated, but continued to walk, in a small circle around the middle of the roof. He was clearly distressed, possibly on medication, and as he walked, he talked to himself while sometimes striking his forehead, hitting himself or perhaps trying to clear the fog in his head.
“What’s your name?” I ask and learn if is “Derek.” “Just Derek.” That’s about the time my Sargent got on scene and positioned his car just right, so the camera would pick up everything Derek did. My Sargent engaged Derek in conversation, trying to learn more about him and keep him talking, calm and focused on kust the Sargent. My partner and I were tasked with calling in ETF and coordinating the rest of the arriving officers to traffic points to close down any pedestrian and vehicle traffic. When I emerged from my calls, Derek was actively engaged in conversation with my Sargent, and was pleading for us to just end it for him. Then it happened. He dropped his knife. As it started rolling down the slopping roof, I immediately ran towards the house. It was just a reaction because I couldn’t reach it up on the roof and if it fell, I’m sure Derek wasn’t coming down to retrieve it. As luck would have it, Derek missed and it fell off the roof and at my feet. Bonus. One down, one to go. Derek recognized our victory as well, raising the hammer up above his head, he threatened “If any of you come up here, I’ll hammer you!”
I often feel useless and bored just standing around waiting for events to unfold and stepping back while someone else is actively engaged in an investigation. So, I started with the nearby homes and worked my way up and down the street, knocking on doors, seeing if anyone could identity the male. As I struck out, I looked at Derek more closely. He was carrying a hammer, and he had on what appeared to be dirty or dusty pants and work boots. His dress suggested that Derek might be a workman, perhaps one of the construction crews working in the area. After checking in with my Sargent I made my way around the neighbourhood, stopping at the construction sites. I asked about disgruntled employees or anyone just fired today. I did come upon a worksite where the foreman advised me a male, matching the description of Derek, had come down the street and stolen a hammer from inside his van. The foreman described yelling at Derek, who just ignored the yelling and continued walking down the street. The foreman decided it was better just to let well enough alone.
So it seemed Derek did not belong with any construction crews in the neighbourhood. As I walked back to the scene, ETF was pulling up on scene. They took over the negotiations. Derek had been on the very hot roof for about three hours at this point. They offered him water. He was thirsty and took the offer, allowing an officer half way up a ladder to hand him a bottle of water, while maintainimg his advantage position. Derek was still insisting that he would kill any officer to step on the roof, and he was still begging to be shot by officers, but he was now sitting. He was visibly getting tired and the ETF negotiator advised we would be done soon, either way. Derek would either cooperate or escalate things. We all were hoping for a positive outcome where no one gets harmed. He needed to come down the ladder himself. The use of any non-lethal weapons would only dislodge him off the roof, and possibly cause serious bodily injury.
Derek wanted a smoke. It didn’t take long before Derek was agreeing to come down from the roof as long as officers would allow him a smoke before being taken away to jail. The ETF negotiator did well and brought him down. As they cuffed him and read him his rights, the negotiator turned to all of us, looking for a cigarette. I counted. Besides the fit and always training ETF team, there were sixteen officers on scene. And not one of them smoked!
We have been taught not to lie to emotionally disturbed people. We often deal with them over and over, again and again, and if we lie once, they will never trust us again. So we all knew how important it was to make good on this. There was one person I knew that smoked and that was Ralph. He had escaped this call and was on some dispute over a parking spot at a nearby mall. I called him and he said he was in the midst of an investigation. Stressing how important it was that we get a smoke and lighter here, he agreed to quickly come down to our location.
So here we all were, standing outside on the front property of a home in which Derek had ripped off most of the roof (we were later to find out there was about $20,000 in damage to the roof and chimney,) as we waited for Ralph to arrive. When he did, about 45 minutes later, it was like he was a hero, as we rushed to him to grab the goodies. But he brushed us all off, and over he marched to Derek, quickly lighted him up a smoke and joined him. It was quite a sight to see Derek cuffed to the rear as Ralph helped him with his smoke, while they just chatted, as if Derek wasn’t surrounded by eight guys with serious artillery on them!
When they were done, Derek was taken to the hospital for his mental health status. Ralph came over to me and asked a simple question “Why didn’t you just walk down the street to the gas station and get a pack of smokes?” I looked down in embarrassment. Sometimes the simplest solution, the one right on front of you, is the often overlooked one. Shut up Ralph!
Apparently Derek had eight different drugs in his system that day, and besides the four point restraints while he came down, it took three days for him to be medically cleared before being being taken to the station regarding his charges. I’m sure the nicotine had minimal impact in the end.