KC police avert ‘suicide by cop’ by using bean bags

Kansas City StarJuly 17, 2013 

The man wearing green camouflage had a knife and wanted police to shoot him dead.

“Why didn’t you use real bullets?” the 56-year-old man asked officers. “That’s what I was hoping for.”

The incident Monday was hardly the first time Kansas City police had been drawn into a suicidal plan. Such incidents happen commonly across the country. They’re often called “suicide by cop.”

In April, a man suffering from terminal cancer walked into an Illinois police station and pointed a replica gun at an officer, who shot him. The man, who survived, had a note in his pocket that apologized to officers and said he “couldn’t do the deed himself.”

A 10-year study in California of shootings by deputies in Los Angeles County revealed that 13 percent of officer-involved justifiable homicides could be classified as suicide by cop.

Kansas City police don’t keep those kinds of statistics, but department spokesman Capt. Tye Grant said: “It’s not uncommon.”

Grant, a former tactical team member, said he faced several such incidents in his career, including one where a woman with two knives begged officers to shoot her.

“Their actions are designed to force us to protect ourselves,” he said, “so they can commit suicide.”

The incident Monday night ended up being a failed attempt at suicide by cop, in part because of the less-than-lethal weapons police had at their disposal, Grant said. The weapons and necessary training are expensive, but he said they prove important.

“We can use them from a distance to give us a better opportunity to stay safe and minimize the chance that we have to use deadly force,” he said.

Deciding when to use those weapons can be a tough call, but Grant said such judgments ultimately come down to whether police or others are in danger.

Police were sent to the man’s home in the 3900 block of Baltimore Avenue about 11:45 p.m. because of a reported prowler. But dispatchers who researched the address determined someone at the home matching the description of the prowler had been the subject of a suicidal police call in January.

The caller in January said the man had a knife and possibly wanted to be shot by police.

With that knowledge, officers approached the man carefully late Monday, Grant said.

Officers kept their distance and asked the man to drop the bag he was carrying and show his hands. The man refused and ignored officers’ commands to lie on the ground.

Officers asked for a sergeant to come to the scene, because patrol sergeants have shotguns that can fire bean-bag rounds. The sergeant ordered the man to comply with officers and announced, “Bean bag,” before firing three of them at the man’s thigh.

The projectiles had little effect. So the sergeant ordered an officer to fire a stun gun.

The Taser also had little effect but distracted the man. Officers noted in their police report that he “appeared to be unaffected and immediately began pulling Taser probes out of his chest.”

When the officers saw the man’s hands did not hold a knife, they handcuffed him without hurting him.

They later found the knife in his pocket. He was taken to a mental hospital for evaluation.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/07/16/4349040/suicide-by-cop-not-this-time.html#storylink=cpy

McClatchy Washington Bureau is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service