Longview, WA – Multiple officers were injured and a police K9 was bludgeoned with a pool cue Wednesday morning after SWAT team members were unable to use less-lethal options to deal with an armed suspect due to recent state law changes.
As a result of being stripped of those less-lethal tools and tactics, the SWAT team was forced to go hand-to-hand with their attacker, the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) said in a press release.
The incident began at approximately 10:10 a.m. on Aug. 4, when a woman called 911 to report that her husband was chasing her around their home with a knife while threatening to “sacrifice her to god,” the CCSO said.
Deputies responded to the two-story residence, which is located in the 2000-block of 46th Avenue, and were able to rescue the woman.
After they got her to safety, her 55-year-old husband “briefly exited the residence but would not comply with commands to surrender,” the CCSO said.
The suspect headed back inside and “challenged” deputies to follow him into the house before he hurled various items and shattered glass in the driveway near the location where the deputies had parked their patrol units, according to the press release.
By that time, the deputies had developed probable cause to arrest him for second-degree domestic violence assault.
“Negotiators spoke with the suspect by phone, and deputies gave commands over a public address speaker, but they were unable to convince the suspect to surrender,” the CCSO said.
The suspect then allegedly told negotiators that he was going to go get his shotgun – a weapon his family members confirmed was inside the home.
The CCSO immediately contacted the Lower Columbia SWAT team to ask for their assistance with the standoff.
They also obtained a search warrant for the home.
The team came under attack when they entered the house to take the violent suspect into custody, the sheriff’s office said.
“The suspect attempted to gouge out one officer’s eye, by putting his fingers inside the officer’s eye socket between his skull and eyeball,” the CCSO noted. “The suspect also spit in the officer’s eyes and bit the officer’s hand.”
He allegedly bashed a CCSO K9 in the head with a pool cue, lacerating the K9’s ear.
The suspect continued to brawl with the officers, who ultimately managed to get him handcuffed in front of his body.
They then moved him outside and tried to reposition the handcuffs to his back.
“The suspect then tried to cut officers with a glass shard as he continued to resist efforts to secure him,” the CCSO said.
By the time the team had the suspect in custody, more than three hours had passed since the initial 911 call has been placed.
“This incident is one of many instances that highlight the negative outcomes of legislation that went into effect on July 25th, 2021,” the CCSO noted in the press release. “There were several opportunities during this incident to utilize less-lethal options, but those options are no longer available due to House Bill 1054.”
Among the options they were barred from using were beanbag shotguns.
“During the initial contact, the suspect exited the home and refused to comply with commands,” the CCSO noted. “Bean-bag munitions could have been deployed at this point to take the suspect into custody.”
Police were also prohibited by the new law from using beanbag rounds to breach windows.
“During this incident, SWAT members had to fill buckets with rocks, which were thrown by hand to breach windows,” the sheriff’s office said.
Another less-lethal option eliminated by the law change was the use of 40mm gas munitions.
“This less-lethal tool is also prohibited by HB 1054, as it is over .50 caliber,” the CCSO noted. “The 40mm launcher can also be used to deploy less-lethal foam rounds, which could have been used when the suspect threatened SWAT members with a pool cue.”
Deputies are further banned from using vascular neck restraints in any situation, so they couldn’t legally use that tactic even as the suspect was trying to murder them with the glass shard.
“This tactic could have been used to quickly and safely stop the suspect from attempting to slash SWAT members,” the CCSO pointed out.
By stripping these less-lethal tactics and weapons from law enforcement and tying officers’ hands in potentially deadly situations, the legislature has placed officers, members of the public, and suspects at significant risk of harm or death.
“This incident highlights the need for the legislature to immediately correct deficiencies in recently passed legislation so that law enforcement officers can have the tools they need to serve their communities safely and effectively,” the CCSO said.
The unidentified suspect has been charged with two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of third-degree assault, domestic violence, harming a police dog, obstructing a law enforcement officer, felony harassment, and resisting arrest.
Longview Police Department Captain Brenden McNew reiterated the need for officers to be allowed to use less-lethal tools in situations like the standoff that occurred Wednesday night.
“The most dangerous thing for a suspect and policeman is to go in and get him,” Capt. McNew told The Daily News.