Yesterday, several officers were dispatched to a residential neighborhood in southeast Santa Rosa. responding to an individual shouting at people and attempting to fight residents. The subject became agitated and aggressive while meeting with his social worker. The situation continued to escalate, as the subject armed himself with a knife.
When SRPD officers arrived, they contacted the subject in the roadway. The subject was brandishing a knife and only wearing a pair of pants. From a safe distance, officers tried to talk with the subject, de-escalate the situation, and get him to put his knife down. The subject refused to comply with directions and the subject demanded that the officers shoot him. On-scene officers requested additional resources, more officers, and medical support.
Eventually, the subject turned his attention away from the officers and toward a residential complex where numerous people were gathered and walking around. The subject walked into the complex and threatened the residents with the knife. He then tried to break into an apartment. Because of the subject’s erratic and violent demeanor, officers recognized the need to immediately disarm the subject, before he injured residents, officers, or himself.
Since the subject was still armed with a knife, officers deployed two less-lethal munitions; an Extended Reach Impact Weapon (WIRE) and a 40mm Sponge Round (descriptions and photographs below). Officers continued to order the subject to drop his knife, but he refused to comply. After the subject was struck, in the body, with the less-lethal munitions, he dropped his knife and laid down on the ground. Officers were then able to safely take him into custody.
Once the scene was safe, officers investigated the subject’s behavior. Speaking with witnesses, the social worker, and the subject, officers determined the subject’s behaviors were related to a mental health crisis. Rather than book the subject into jail for brandishing a knife, officers recognized the subject’s need for immediate mental health services and admitted him into a local hospital for treatment.
SRPD works closely with Sonoma County Behavioral Health Division and the Mobile Support Team to assist individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. Additionally, officers are trained in de-escalation and tactical communication. When subjects are experiencing a mental health crisis AND become violent, less-lethal options, like a WIRE and 40mm, often allow officers to overcome a subject’s violent behavior, from a safe distance, without having to escalate to more lethal force options.
In this incident, no resident nor officer was injured. The involved subject sustained minor bruising but immediately received medical and mental health treatment. Incidents like yesterday are unfortunately all too common, which is why SRPD continues to evolve our training to meet the needs of our community. We partner with local mental health services and we are currently in the process of developing a program in which mental health professionals will respond to subjects experiencing a non-violent mental health crisis. More information on this innovative program is coming soon.
Thank you for taking the time to read this long post, but we believe it is important for our community to know why and how we handle certain types of calls. Lastly, we want to thank the social worker, residents, and officers who all assisted in getting this subject the help he needed.
Descriptions of Less-Lethal Munitions Deployed (see image above):
WIRE (Extended Reach Impact Weapon - designated shotguns): Deploys “sock rounds,” small pellets contained in a soft material (left)
40mm: Deploys a sponge round (right)