PRICE — Two police officers were awarded Medals of Distinguished Service from the city of Price for their actions involving a distraught man with a shotgun pointing at his chin.
April 1 is normally a day for jokes and pranks. However, at the Price Police Department this past April 1, no one was laughing.
“It was a little scary,” said officer David Wilkinson.
He and fellow officer Stephen Regruto were called to a house near 500 South and 100 East in Price. When they arrived at the location, they noticed the man they were looking for, but that man didn’t want to see them.
"And as he turned and ran into the garage, I recognized the weapon was there, as we ran into the garage," said Wilkinson. “It was a shotgun, and it was lying in a way that it was easily accessible to him.”
Both officers chased the man into the garage. It didn’t cross Regruto’s mind at the time to be scared of the situation.
“We reacted the way, I think, almost anybody would have reacted under those circumstances,” Regruto said.
The man grabbed the shotgun, but he didn't point it at officers like they thought he might. Instead, the man pointed his shotgun at his own chin. That’s when officers caught up to him, tackled him and pinned him to the ground.
“(We) just tried to hold him down and keep that shotgun pointed in a safe direction,” Regruto said. “He didn't yell at us, didn't tell us to back off or anything like that. He just kind of laid there, I guess."
The whole thing lasted just a couple of minutes.
"I believe he was in a tough place,” said Wilkinson. “He had a lot going on in his life, and sometimes people just find there is no end, there's no out. And I believe he reached that point in his life that day."
That man had been going through relationship issues, mental issues and was unemployed. “He wasn’t looking to harm officer Regruto or myself,” said Wilkinson. “He was just looking to harm himself.”
This case is an example about why crisis intervention training is as important as ever, according to Price Police Capt. Bill Barnes.
“We have an extreme emphasis on training, and our crews train at least one day a month,” Barnes said. “As a department, we’re focusing on the crisis intervention, recognizing a time of crisis in an individual’s life and an upset in their regular course of things.”
The Price community is a hard-working, blue-collar type town where many residents work in the coal mines, Barnes said. It’s an area that is still doing its best to recover from the economic collapse, and many people are still looking for work.
Barnes said when his officers deal with these types of situations, it’s important to recognize there may be other factors involved.
"You know, we have plenty of the cops and robbers type stuff to deal with. We have plenty to keep us busy,” the captain said, “but we also want to be servants to the community. We work for them, and I think that crisis intervention training was critical in this situation."
After the incident, the gunman thanked the officers for saving his life.
“To me, it means we did something good. We did something right,” Regruto said.
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company