Detective Howard Brickner and Corporal Lynn Bays are being hailed as heroes today following the release of body camera footage showing the two career police officers choosing to save a mentally ill man instead of killing him.
The incident happened in January after officers made contact with Marcus Lavender, a man with an admitted death wish. According to a" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> Youtube video and accompanying description uploaded by Police Activity:
"Brickner told that he and Bays went to Lavender’s residence for a well-being check call. After arriving, they were warned by dispatch that Lavender had made threatening remarks about trying to shoot any officers that arrived on scene."
They said they noticed someone had been drinking alcohol as they found an open bottle on the seat of a truck at the residence. Bays walked around behind the house, while Brickner knocked on the front door. Brickner described what happened next:
"The front door was opening with the muzzle of a weapon behind it. I grabbed a hold of the muzzle pushing it away and wrapped around the guy and we started to wrestle with the gun. It went off. I had yelled for my partner and he’d come running."
Brickner said his first instinct was to get, "the muzzle of that weapon planted in the ground where it wasn’t going to be able to do anything."
Bays ran to the front of the home to assist Brickner. Even though Bays drew his weapon and ordered Lavender to drop his gun, there was no way for him to comply because Brickner and Lavender were struggling for control of the rifle.
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Bays' body camera captured the entire incident. A shot can be heard and Bays went running in the direction of the percussion. There, he encountered Brickner and Lavender struggling for control of what appears to be an AK-47. The gun, which had already gone off at least once, was pointed in Bays' direction the entire time. He ordered Lavender, "Put it down Marcus! Put it down!"
Lavender can be heard begging the officers to, "shoot me please," an action Bays would have been legally justified in doing. It is unclear if Bays was more concerned about hitting his partner than he was about ending the life of the suspect, but at any rate, he chose not to fire his weapon and place himself directly into the line of fire.
"Please shoot me. I wanna die. Please kill me," Lavender pleads, all the while the officers maintained their composure and did not end the man's life. They did, however, deploy their taser, an action which immobilized the suspect long enough to place him in handcuffs and secure the firearm.
In an era where it seems police officers often shoot first and ask questions later, it is refreshing to see a brave officer who thought less of his own safety and more it appears on doing the right thing to save not only his partner but the suicidal man.
Lavender has since been sentenced for crimes related to endangering the lives of the police officers. He received 4 years in the Department of Corrections for Unlawful Use of a Weapon and 7 years for Unlawful Possession of a Firearm.
We applaud Corporal Lynn Bays and Detective Howard Brickner for their bravery in service to their community. We hope your acts of bravery serve as an example and model of how situations can be handled peacefully without the unnecessary taking of human life. There is no doubt you both were in fear for your lives and would have been justified in ending the threat. But you went above and beyond your call of duty and for that we salute you both.