Police Explain Response To Suicidal Man Outside Tulsa Hospital
TULSA, Oklahoma - A heavy Tulsa Police response and a photo of an officer aiming a rifle at a suicidal man outside a Tulsa hospital earlier this week has some raising concerns.
For police, talking down a suicidal man isn't an unusual event, but the setting was right by a busy street outside Tulsa's St. Francis hospital.
Police blocked off the entrance to the hospital and kept news cameras back, but they took pictures of negotiators on the phone with a suicidal man, officers guarding the parking garage and eventually his surrender without harm.
But a photo of an officer pointing a rifle, generated questions online about whether police were there to help or hurt someone.
"The person we were dealing with is not a suspect in a crime, he was in crisis and threatening harm to himself, but it only takes a moment for him to change from doing harm to himself to doing harm to someone else," said Tulsa Police Captain Mike Eckert.
Captain Eckert commanded the team sent to negotiate and contain the suicidal man. He said other officers had non-lethal weapons, but they had to be ready for anything.
"The people in closest proximity to him who were actually talking to him are not pointing guns at him and offering assistance. They're working from behind shields and other officers have the responsibility to cover and protect the person actually talking with the person in crisis," said Captain Eckert.
The photos Tulsa Police posted on their Facebook page are part of a new effort to show the public what officers do everyday.
Eckert said with traffic nearby and people at windows of the surrounding office buildings, officers had to be prepared to stop any threat. He says the patrol officer with the rifle was 75 to 100 yards from the man.
"And that person was in place as a containment position in case that person in crisis with a firearm tries to run away. We have to have people ready because that's a continuing threat we have to address," said Captain Eckert.
Captain Mike Eckert said throughout the nearly two hour standoff, his team was constantly re-evaluating what they could do to safely disarm the man and get him some help.
In the end, despite the show of force, that's what happened.