A City of Rehoboth Beach Road Officer Responds to a Suicide-By-Cop Call
911: Suicidal subject. A Rehoboth cop faces a man with a death wish.
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I stopped my car about 30 feet behind the Dewey police vehicle. At this point in my career, I had been to a number of suicidal situations which went one of two ways: either the subject was dead/near dead (the deed done) or the subject was verbalizing or acting out (doing things like laying out a will, quoting the Bible and writing suicide notes) and making non-life-threatening attempts (superficial cuts to the wrists, overtaking medication).
Most of the time I have found that the latter was a call for attention, or a hope for additional meds. Once I encountered both situations at the same time: A man had been verbalizing and as I arrived, he stuck the barrel of a high-powered rifle in the roof of his mouth and blew the top of his head off. I thought of this briefly that afternoon in Dewey—it was one of the mental files I had to draw from. In a critical incident when it’s difficult to consciously process information, an officer draws from these unconscious files. They come from training or experience.
I didn’t have any information on this complaint other than to assist Dewey with a suicidal subject. With the condos to my left and the Dewey cruiser parked just ahead of me, I began to think that this might be a run-of-the-mill thing, maybe a drunk subject who called his ex-girlfriend and told her he was going to off himself. Or a druggie who figures he’ll get meds at a psychiatric facility after claiming he wants to kill himself. You know: A plus B equals C.
I figured the subject was probably in one of the condos, and the Dewey officer was waiting for me to help take the sad soul into custody.
I exited my vehicle and casually walked up to the driver’s side window of the Dewey police cruiser. As I approached, I yelled, “So what’s going on?” The officer, a female, said nothing. She looked pale and made no eye contact with me, her stare fixed straight ahead on the late-model truck that I’d noticed when I arrived. She raised her arm with her finger pointing in the direction of the truck. She said nothing, just moved her arm back and forth, emphasizing the direction of her point. I still didn’t have any information, but I was getting the feeling that my A plus B equals C assessment was probably wrong.
That’s when I looked toward the truck and noticed a man in the driver’s seat. He had disheveled dark hair and a mustache that was long and unkempt. His complexion was gray and pale, his face gaunt and his cheeks hollow. His intense gaze felt like it could burn right into me.
Just then the Rehoboth 911 Center contacted me over the radio: “Rehoboth to 7314.”
“10-3 Rehoboth,” I said.
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