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UHP sergeant says training helped him save suicidal woman

Published: Thursday, March 14 2013 3:44 p.m. MDT

Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Rich Haycock helped talk a woman out of trying to kill herself with a gun following a high-speed chase on I-70 March 7, 2013. Haycock listened to the woman for several hours and eventually convinced her to give him the gun and surrender. On Wednesday, March 13, 2013, he said he knew he had to calm her down right away before things escalated.

, Utah Highway Patrol

RICHFIELD — Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Rich Haycock knew one day his negotiation training would come in handy. That day came on March 7.

The incident began just after 8:30 a.m. on I-70 when a Utah Highway Patrol trooper tried to stop 36-year-old Jamie Warhurst between Richfield and Salina because the license plate on her vehicle didn't match the car it was registered to.

Warhurst, from Mississippi, refused to pull over and led troopers on a high-speed chase. At some points during the chase, speeds reached more than 100 mph. Troopers eventually used spikes across the interstate to flatten Warhurst’s tires, which allowed another trooper to spin her around using a PIT maneuver.

When trooper Rod Elmer approached her car, he noticed Warhurst holding a gun to her own chin.

"It's one of those situations where you say, ‘I can't believe this is happening now,’” Elmer said.

“If a gun battle was probably going to happen that day, it would have happened within the first few minutes of that stop," Haycock recalled.

The sergeant was one of the troopers on the scene when the chase ended, and he started talking to Warhurst right away. He knew he had to calm her down.

“We had to build trust,” Haycock said, “and once you do that, then you can get to the root of the problem."

He kept telling Warhurst she “was a good person.” He reminded her “it didn’t have to end this way.”

“Part of talking to people is understanding what they’re really saying to you with their body language,” Haycock said, “and listening to the silent voice that’s inside of them.”

He ended up speaking and listening to Warhurst for nearly three hours while the I-70 in the area was shut down.

“I was thinking about how to react to what she was saying and what she was doing,” he said, “when to apply pressure and when not to apply pressure, how to reward her for good, how to direct the conversation to positive away from negative, away from fantasy to realism — and accountability.”

Drivers were being rerouted away from the standoff, which meant at least a couple of hours of being detoured.

“I feel bad for the people that were delayed, but not as bad as I would have felt if this lady had shot herself or one of our people,” Haycock said.

Warhurst was allowed to smoke a cigarette and often spoke back to troopers. Haycock kept talking to her through it all, thanking her for “not pointing that gun at me.” At one point, he also asked her if she needed anything, such as a pepperoni pizza. He said he tried everything he could to connect to her.

"There were several points in which it felt like it was teetering on a fence and that she really wanted to end it," he recalled.

About four hours after she was first pulled over, Warhurst handed her gun to Haycock and surrendered.

"Common sense, level heads, good training, and good people,” Haycock said. “And this lady is alive as a result."

No one was hurt during the incident.

“The things that could have gone wrong, they’re a dime a dozen,” said UHP Capt. Bruce Riches. “You're always proud when anything goes right."

Riches said this standoff was done the right way: slowly and calmly.

"We're not trigger happy. We don't go out and get in a shooting and then get promoted as a result of that, or get rewarded for it,” Riches said. “It's the last thing we want to have happen."

Riches also gave credit to Haycock, who went out of his way to take negotiating training.

“When the rubber meets the road and you’re in the heat of battle, you’re going to rely on your training,” Riches said. “You’re going to default back to those things you’ve been taught, those things that you have worked on forever and ever and ever.”

“He mentioned that he had first done this kind of training 30 years ago,” said Utah Department of Public Safety spokesman Dwayne Baird, “and he kept up on it, realizing that if he only had to use it once, it would have been worth all the time and training and effort.”

Warhurst was booked into the Sevier County Jail for investigation of evading police and having a loaded gun in her car. She also had warrants for her arrest out of Kansas, which may be the reason she was trying to get away from them in the first place, troopers said.

“Hopefully she can find the kind of help she needs after all this is done,” said Baird. “But at least she will be alive to do it.”

“People are important,” said Haycock, “That’s what we’re out here for. That’s who we are and what we’re all about. That’s kind of how we roll. We’re here to serve the people.”

E-mail: acabrero@ksl.com, Twitter: ksl_alexcabrero

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