Sacramento, CA — An intense standoff was captured on video between a mentally unstable man and Sacramento police officers on Thursday.
Amazingly enough, the myriad of snipers and SWAT members didn’t fire a single round at the man who was waiving a revolver around in the middle of the road.
Instead of shooting first and asking questions later, a negotiator, Officer Ed Bertola, was called in. Police requested, over their loud speaker, for the suspect, Cory Thomas, to call 9-1-1; surprisingly, he did.
Bertola told FOX 40 that Thomas was originally over at Power Inn for a registration violation. However, instead of stopping, he led authorities on a 30 minute high-speed chase throughout south Sacramento.
After speaking with Thomas, Bertola found that Thomas had experienced a “series of unfortunate circumstances” that led to him running from law enforcement.
Police applied a certain level of empathy for the troubled man and instead of firing rounds, they fired back phone calls to Thomas. Two negotiators from the Sacramento Sheriff’s department refused to give up on the man and called Thomas a total of 48 times between 9:50 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. Thursday night.
“We have someone who is extremely upset, and they don’t know who I am and so I shouldn’t be too offended if he wants to hang up on me a few times,” Bertola said.
Bertola said that he had to choose his words wisely in order to prevent any sudden flare-ups in Thomas’ temper which could have ended in a shoot-out or a suicide.
Bertola listened to Thomas vent and eventually earned his trust. Bertola showed us that peace is also an effective means of reconciling a dangerous situation and 1 hour and 40 minutes after the standoff began, Thomas laid the gun down and was taken into custody.
“I went and I talked to the suspect after [the standoff]. I introduced myself and said ‘I am the one you’ve been talking to,’ and I said ‘Thank you. Thanks for choosing this.’ It could have ended very differently. And he chose to end it this way,” Bertola said.
Bertola and his fellow negotiator deserve to be commended for their humanity as well as the rest of the officers involved in this standoff, for respecting life instead of disposing of it.
Could it be that the public’s demand for a more peaceful police system had something to do with the way the officers conducted themselves? We’d like to think so.
This incident should serve as an example for police officers across the country. All too often we see mentally ill people in standoff situations, some armed only with knives, gunned down by overzealous and trigger happy SWAT teams.
One tragic example of such callous disregard for the preservation of life is the case of Michael Blair. In November of 2013, Blair, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, barricaded himself in his bathroom.
Instead of negotiating police resorted to drill instructor methods of yelling and screaming at the already distraught man. When Blair refused to comply with their confrontational tactics, he was tased several times and eventually shot and killed. The entire incident was caught on video.