A tense, armed standoff ended peacefully Friday after a man experiencing a mental health crisis had threatened to kill himself in Hermiston.
Around 7:15 a.m., Hermiston Police Department (HPD) officers responded to a disturbance in the 500 block of West Standard Avenue. Officers were told that a male in his 40s was experiencing a mental health crisis and had been fighting with an acquaintance. The officers went inside to talk to the man and found him partially clothed, in a bedroom, brandishing a loaded handgun.
According to Lt. Randy Studebaker, the man had the gun pointed at his head and in his mouth at various times. Studebaker said the man repeatedly made quick, furtive movements, asked for a minister, told the officers he intended to kill himself, and challenged the officers to shoot him.
Studebaker said the officers immediately contained the situation to mitigate any threat of harm to the public. While doing so, they talked with the man for nearly 20 minutes while waiting for additional backup, including an HPD crisis negotiator, to arrive.
Ultimately, the initial responding patrol officers, without specialized assistance, convinced the man to put the gun down. The firearm was seized and he chose to go with them, voluntarily, for a mental health evaluation.
“At several points during this very tense situation, the officers would have been legally justified in using deadly force,” said Studebaker. “Whether or not a situation ends peacefully is not up to the involved officers. The police can only respond to somebody else’s actions. That being said, in this case, the officers were able to use de-escalation and crisis intervention techniques they’ve learned in our regular training. This allowed the person to choose a different course of action, resulting in a safe resolution for all involved.”
The name of the involved individual is not being released as he is not being charged with a crime.
“It is our sincere hope that this person receives the help and healing that he needs,” said Studebaker.
Both Umatilla County Fire District #1 and the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office assisted the HPD during the incident.