Portland, OR – Portland police were surrounded by yelling protesters as they worked to communicate with a paranoid schizophrenic armed with a knife on Friday.
The incident began at approximately 1 p.m. on Jan. 15, when officers from the Portland Police Bureau’s (PPB) Central Precinct were dispatched to a welfare check outside an apartment building in the 300-block of Southwest 4th Avenue, the department said in a press release.
The caller told police that a man had jumped out of a second-story window, then pulled out a knife and started “waving it around at people and cars going by,” according to the PPB.
When officers arrived at the scene, the 30-year-old man held the knife to his own throat and threatened to kill himself if police came any closer to him.
While other officers worked to clear the area to “reduce the stress of the situation” for the armed man, an Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team (ECIT) member started speaking with him, according to police.
“The officers learned that the man was schizophrenic and extremely paranoid,” the PPB said. “He not only threatened to kill himself, he said he would hurt others as well.”
Officers stayed back and continued working to de-escalate the tense situation rather than rushing in and potentially “exacerbating” an already-dangerous scene, police noted.
About 90 minutes into the negotiation, two separate groups of protesters showed up on opposite sides of the officers.
“Some in the crowd began chanting, and one even started using a bullhorn,” the PPB said. “The extra noise and distraction made it impossible for the specially trained officers to speak to the man.”
Police begged the crowds to stop interfering with their efforts to end the standoff, “but their energy only increased,” according to the press release.
The suicidal man’s mother arrived at the scene and implored the mobs to stop, but most of the so-called protesters ignored her.
Members of the two groups allegedly started threatening police, at which point a PPB supervisor requested units from around the city to respond to help.
This resulted in a “major resource drain citywide,” and prevented police from being able to respond to “all but the highest priority calls” in the interim, the PPB noted.
While the Crisis Negotiation Team worked to find a mental health provider who was familiar with the suicidal male, backup officers put on face shields and helmets to help protect themselves against the hostile mobs.
Police then learned that the suspect had a history of being violent towards others and could also be a threat to himself.
Over three hours after negotiations began, officers used a barking K9 to divert the armed suspect’s attention, enabling police to swoop in and tase him.
The suicidal man was taken into custody and transported to a local hospital to be evaluated, the PPB said.
The department noted that the suspect was not injured other than the punctures caused by the Taser probes, and said the only force they used against the hostile crowds was “some pushing to keep them back and out of the street.”
PPB Sergeant Kevin Allen said the call itself was difficult enough for officers, but that the “mini protest” that developed complicated matters even further.
No one was arrested or charged for interfering with the investigation, KATU reported.
“They’re allowed to be there and we understand that people are watching what we do – that’s okay,” Sgt. Allen told KATU. “But when it starts to rise to the level of injecting yourself into the call and interfering with the call, we ask people not to do that. That can make it incredibly difficult and much more dangerous.”