For more than five hours, a 67-year-old Greenwood veteran went back and forth between threatening officers and telling them to kill him and end his misery.
Dozens of officers watched, guns pointed, as the man yelled from his porch and then stormed back into his home multiple times.
Police knew he had guns, including the shotgun he fired into the air, prompting neighbors to call 911 about 4 p.m. Monday. They were worried about his safety and the safety of his neighbors.
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After failed attempts to talk him out of his home and one try at stunning him with foam rounds and then rushing to grab him, officers began shooting tear gas into the home at 450 Robbins Drive. As the home filled with gas, the man came outside.
But he wasn’t ready to give up yet. Police had to once again shoot foam rounds at him, which stunned him enough that officers could handcuff him.
The man was taken to the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center for treatment, which is where he belongs, Greenwood Police Assistant Chief Matt Fillenwarth said.
At this point, police are not sure if they will pursue criminal charges, Fillenwarth said.
“Our real concern right now, is this guy is a veteran, he’s having some issues, a lot of them, and some mental health treatment is the way to go,” Fillenwarth said.
Their other main concern is to keep the man away from guns, he said.
“Our biggest problem is not the guns, but the guns that get into the hands of mentally unstable people,” Fillenwarth said.
Police have confiscated the man’s guns. The warrant to go into the man’s home allowed police to remove any firearms because of the concern that the man was a dangerous, which has to meet specific legal definitions, Prosecutor Brad Cooper said. In this case, he was threatening police officers, he said.
When officers went inside the home after the man was sent to the hospital, they found about a dozen loaded guns and confiscated them, Fillenwarth said.
Now, a judge will be asked to decide if the guns should be taken away, and that decision will be reviewed at a hearing conducted every six months, Cooper said.
Police have been called about the resident in the past, but the issues have typically involved a dispute with a neighbor that got loud, and have not been criminal, Fillenwarth said.
About a week ago, police got a call from the Veterans Affairs office that the man had called and said he had a gun to his head. Officers went to the home, but the man denied saying that, and there was nothing they could do, Fillenwarth said. They have been told by the VA that the man is a Vietnam veteran who has been treated for PTSD and other mental health issues, he said.
This week, officers again went to the man’s home, just north of Smith Valley Road, near Westwood Elementary School, when multiple neighbors called 911 about shots fired from his property.
When police got there, they found the man on his porch, yelling and lifting a shotgun in the air. The last thing they heard him say was, “Bring it on,” before he went back inside.
That’s when the SWAT team was called.
Police blocked off the street and told neighbors to stay inside their homes. Police did not evacuate the residents because as long as they stayed inside, they were safe, Fillenwarth said. A woman in the house next door was evacuated by police after a relative called, and asked them to help her and the baby she was caring for get out.
Police tried to negotiate and talk with the man for hours, including asking him to come outside to get his dog who had run out of the home. But eventually, the man either wouldn’t answer his phone or just yelled, Fillenwarth said.
“I wasn’t getting anywhere with talking to him, and he just seemed to be escalating,” Fillenwarth said.
He told officers to try to take a shot at the man with foam pellets, which are meant to stun someone. They tried, hitting him once in the upper body and missing with the second shot. Officers rushed toward the house, but the man got inside before they could get him, Fillenwarth said.
They knew he wouldn’t come outside again, and the man began telling the officers he would kill them, Fillenwarth said. That’s when police decided to use tear gas, he said.
Officers shot tear gas into three different rooms of the home, and the man came outside, yelled and went back in. But when the gas became stronger, he came outside again. The man kept putting his hands behind his back, and police were worried he could have a gun, so they shot him again with the foam pellets, Fillenwarth said.
The pellets stunned the man, allowing police to handcuff him, put him in an ambulance and take him to the hospital, he said.
No one was injured, Fillenwarth said.