Six Pottawatomie County sheriff’s deputies kept a level head and held their fire when a Pink woman who had been threatening suicide pointed a weapon at them earlier this week. After negotiations, the woman surrendered and dropped the weapon, which looked like a 9 mm black pistol, but was actually a BB gun. Capt. Travis Palmer said the woman, whose name is not being released, called 911 and said she was armed with a 9 mm pistol and was going to kill herself. The E-911 center in Tecumseh was able to track her call to the Pink area, Palmer said, and Deputy Johnny Austin began negotiations with her over the phone for about one hour. Palmer said deputies used the tracking system to pinpoint the general area of her location, but they weren’t sure exactly which residence she was calling from. Several deputies responded to that general area. The woman said she was going to kill herself or force deputies to kill her as Austin continued phone negotiations. About 30 minutes later, she agreed to come out of the house. Deputies Randy Willis, Jimmy Brewer, Scott Hawkins, Brian Wolfe and Palmer went to the home with Austin and REACT EMS paramedics were at the scene in a standby mode, he said. The woman, reported to be in her 40s, didn’t come out of the home they expected and exited a nearby travel trailer, Palmer said. She took a stance and pointed her weapon at all six deputies, and while they are trained to protect their lives from shooters, none of them fired their sidearms. “I was proud of them — they took cover” behind one patrol car, Palmer said, as negotiations continued. Deputies were a distance away as the woman put the gun to her head and then pointed it at the deputies again, he said, then there was more negotiations. Austin kept talking to her, Palmer said, and the woman eventually decided to throw the weapon a few feet away from her. She was taken into custody to be medically checked and undergo evaluation, Palmer said. In the end, deputies learned the black pistol, which looked just like a 9 mm handgun, was a BB gun, “but we didn’t know that at the time,” Palmer said. Any of the deputies could have shot her to protect their own lives, he said, but none did. “The officers were professional and held their fire. I don’t know why,” he said. “The guys did a tremendous job,” Palmer added, praising Austin’s negotiation efforts. Palmer also said dispatchers at the 911 center did a great job of coordinating dispatch efforts as the deputies worked the scene. Afterward, all of the deputies were debriefed about the experience. Sheriff Mike Booth said they’ve all asked why none of them shot the woman. He said something — maybe “intuition” — stopped them. And just like officers are trained and subconsciously pull their sidearms when someone threatens or points a weapon at them, Booth said sometimes deputies pull their guns and can tell something’s not quite right. Undersheriff Dave Balleweg said there was great teamwork involved at the scene. In the end, what mattered was that no one was hurt and the woman’s life, despite her desire to end it, was spared
The second week of operation of the countywide E911 system is going well, despite a few problems the staff is working through.
Director Melvin Potter told county commissioners at their weekly meeting Tuesday that there have been “quite a few drop outs, but we’ll addressing those for the next six months.” Drop outs are when telephone numbers don’t match up with an address in the database.
Coordinator Dwight Wise said many of those are fax lines, second telephone lines and such, which will be separated from other lines as they are sorted out. Dispatchers always ask the caller where he or she is when they answer the phone, whether the address comes up on the 911 computer or not. When they don’t, “we work them like basic 911,” Wise said.
Potter said there have also been some radio problems, but those are being worked out as well. Meanwhile, as of Monday, data for all communities in the county have been loaded into the database, and work began Tuesday inputting T-Mobile cell phone data. Other carriers will be added as they are available, so that cell phone calls can be triangulated and locations determined by the system.
Also at the brief commissioners’ meeting, financing for Bethel Public Schools construction projects was approved. Bonds approved by the voters are being handled through the Pottawatomie County Facilities Authority and must be okayed by the commissioners.
“This is identical to what we’ve done in Harrah, Shawnee and Tecumseh,” said Terry West, attorney for the authority. Bethel’s $5 million bond issue will pay for an early childhood addition and a high school/middle school media center.