Walton County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Mark Hess put his life on the line to save a suicidal man armed with a rifle.
A Walton County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant took matters into his own hands, subduing a suicidal man armed with a rifle in an incident caught on dash cam video.
The video shows the man standing outside a vehicle when Lieutenant Mark Hess walks up. The man then pulls out a rifle, prompting Lieutenant Hess to pull out his service revolver.
The man holds the rifle up and repeatedly tells Lieutenant Hess to shoot him as he walks towards him. Hess continues to tell the man to put the weapon down but the man does not.
The man continues to scream at Lieutenant Hess, telling him to kill him and while doing so, drops his rifle. As he attempts to pick it up, Hess bowls the man over and puts him in a choke hold.
Another officer grabs the man’s rifle as Hess subdues him.
People love to ask why some people get shot while armed and others don’t, and I always have the same answer: context.
Let’s go the freeze-frames of the video.
As Lt. Hess walks up he sees the man reaching into his truck and has his hand on his pistol.
As the man steps away from the truck he does so with what appears to be a Ruger 10/22 rifle variant. Lt. Hess draws his gun.
Lt. Hess presses out, but notices the man does not have a firing grip on the gun, but it holding it by the stock and is pointing it away from the officer. Hess holds fire as the man tries to goad him into shooting him.
There is no way for the man to discharge the rifle as it is currently held. Lt. Hess knows this and calls for a deputy to move up with a taser as the man continues to try to goad him into firing. Lt. Hess focuses on the rifle, and holds his fire.
The man appears to drop the rifle, and it dangles, apparently from a sling.
The man then drops the rifle to the ground, and Lt. Hess sees his chance to end the confrontation.
Lt. Hess bowls him over.
Lt. Hess pins the man to the ground, and the deputy rushes in to pull the rifle out from under them. Hess slugs the guy with a punch that stuns him, and they are able to take him into custody without further incident.
It was incredibly good threat recognition and reading of the man’s body language by Lt. Hess that saved this man’s life. Hess likely would have been justified in shooting the man as soon as he saw him draw the firearm from the back seat of the SUV. This man is alive today because Lt. Hess recognized that the weapon was not being held in a manner in which it could fire, and because of the way he read the man’s body language and tone. The man wanted his life own life ended, but was careful to never point the rifle at Hess, or even hold it in a manner in which it could be fired. He was despondent, but not an immediate deadly force threat, even though he was holding a gun.
I have to think that if a less experienced officer took the lead in answering this call that the man would be in the hospital or morgue right now instead of in jail. His life may not be what he wants it to be right now, but thanks to how Lt. Hess answered this call and read the situation, this man at least has his life.