Officers with the South Pasadena Police Department (SPPD) found themselves in the unenviable position last week of having to confront an armed suicidal man pressing a large kitchen knife into his neck but were able to talk the man down, disarm him, and peaceably resolve the entire incident.

So Pas Police officers quickly ascertained the potentially volatile incident Wednesday afternoon, April 17, in the 1600 block of Amberwood Drive, which involved a man locked behind a closed door apparently under the influence of a number of pills and with wrists awash with blood.

“On April 17th at 2:54 p.m., South Pasadena Police officers were called to the 1600 block of Amberwood Drive in response to a suicidal subject,” according to a press release issued by the SPPD Thursday morning. “The subject told his family members that he had consumed numerous pills and slit his wrists.”

Police arrived within two minutes of the call and discovered the man was locked inside his apartment. They knocked several times to no avail and finally had to break through the door. They discovered the man in the back bedroom on a bed with a large kitchen knife “to his throat.”

“Officers observed the subject was bleeding from his wrists and appeared to be pushing the knife further into his neck,” the press release states. “Officers asked the subject several times to put down the knife and talk with them. The subject insisted on taking his life and told the officers he had taken approximately 90 pills.”
Officers continued to talk to the man in an attempt to build some kind of rapport, according to police. The man apparently became distracted for an unknown reason, which is when officers moved in and gained control of the situation.

“Eventually the subject was distracted and officers were able to use a six-foot prying tool to knock the knife out of his hands and gain control of his arms,” according to the press release. “Officers immediately began first-aid until paramedics entered the apartment and provided medical attention. The subject was transported to Huntington Memorial Hospital for further treatment.”

So Pas Captain Brian Solinsky applauded the action of the officers in an email to The Review.

“I am extremely proud of the organization and the officers,” Solinsky said in the email. “As is the case in almost every encounter, the officers used extreme caution and care for the safety of all involved. They were able to de-escalate a tense situation and avoid the need for deadly force.”

Newly hired So Pas Police Chief Joe Ortiz, who was out of town attending a police chiefs conference in Palm Springs, echoed Solinsky’s comments and offered the following explanation the day after the incident.

“As you know, yesterday afternoon our officers responded to a home located in the 1600 block of Amberwood Drive to check the welfare of one of our residents,” Ortiz said in an email to The Review. “The alleged, suicidal subject had possibly taken three bottles of prescription medication before the officers had arrived. When our officers arrived, they contacted this subject and found him lying in bed, holding a knife to his own throat. Eventually, an opportunity presented itself and the officers safely disarmed the subject. Officers rushed in, secured the subject and rendered medical attention to our resident as needed.”

Ortiz, who started his job as the new South Pasadena Police Chief less than three weeks ago on April 1, praised the officers, saying they showed “sound judgement and great teamwork.”

“I am very proud of our officers,” Ortiz said. “Their quick response, de-escalation techniques, safe tactics and compassion for our resident paid off in the end. Defusing a very difficult situation avoided an incident that could have required a potential use of force. After learning of the incident, I immediately reached out to the on-duty watch commander to recognize his leadership, sound judgement and great teamwork that took place by the officers and dispatcher involved.”

Solinsky added that the situation presented the officers “both tactical and safety dilemmas,” which they successfully navigated to resolve the incident without further injury.

No officers or anyone else was reported injured during this incident.

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Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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