As I opened the door to head to the parking lot. I had to catch my breath. I thought it was muggy last night. Tonight was worse. My partner, Chris Baldino, was right behind me. “This weather is frickin ridiculous. Correct me if I am wrong, but aren’t we in Michigan? Because if I didn’t know any better, I would think we are in Georgia.”
Chris and I had been patrol car partners for the last five years. Currently, we worked the 11pm to 7am shift. We met in high school and were roommates in college. Both married, with children. We even hired on the police department at the same time.
I looked over at him. “What do you think, will tonight be busier than last night?”
“Rick, why did you have to say such a stupid thing? You know that comment is the kiss of death.”
Just as he finished. I heard our dispatch calling, “ADAM-10.” I looked at Chris. “For God’s sake, at least give us a few minutes to get to the car.”
He barked back at me, “I told you. Your big mouth was the kiss of death.”
I grabbed the mic for my portable radio off my shirt collar. “ADAM-10.”
“ADAM-10. Start heading to 53298 Goldberg, an Attempt Suicide in progress. The resident advises their nineteen-year-old son is in the basement threatening to kill himself with a butcher’s knife. The son is apparently despondent over a fight with his girlfriend. There are no firearms in the home. ADAM-11, you will have the backup.”
“ADAM-10, 10-4 on the way.”
“ADAM-11, Will be on the way.”
“Didn’t I tell you, Rick? You had to open your big mouth.”
“I heard you the first time.”
We ran to our car and threw our gear inside. I jumped behind the wheel and buckled up as Chris got into the passenger side and turned on our emergency lights and siren and we were off to Goldberg.
After I made the turn out of the station parking lot. I turned towards Chris. “This is going to be an interesting call.”
“You aren’t kidding. Any ideas how you want to handle this one?”
“Chris, you know I have the gift of gab. I will talk him right into the ambulance.”
“Can’t you be serious for once?” “I am. Talking with the kid is the best option. Get him to relax and go from there. I know I can do it.”
As we neared Goldberg, I shut our emergency equipment off. We had worked together in Adam—area for almost four years. So we knew the address we wanted was almost to the end of the block and on our right side.
As we neared the house, Chris said; “There it is, two up from here.”
“ADAM-10 to ADAM-11. It is the white bungalow on the northeast corner of Goldberg and Chapman.”
“Got it, we will be out in two.”
I told Chris to tell them to stay in their car until we talk with the kids’ parents.
“ADAM-10 to ADAM-11,”
“Go for ADAM-11.”
“Jim, you two stay where you are at until we speak with the parents.”
“ADAM-11 is 10-4, you two be careful.”
“ADAM-10 to dispatch, we will be out.”
“10-4, ADAM-10. The ambulance will stand by with ADAM-11.”
“Got it, 10-4.”
As Chris and I were getting out of our car. Dispatch advised they were attempting to contact Lieutenant Carey, the department’s crisis negotiator.
As we approached the house, we kept our eyes open in case the son had got out.
As we walked up to the house, the young man’s father met us. He told us his son was still in the basement. We could hear his son talking to himself.
“I am Officer Hanlon and this is Officer Baldino.”
“I am Patrick Murphy, that’s our son Michael in the basement.”
“Mr. Murphy, who else is in the house?”
“Just my wife Eileen, she locked herself in our bedroom. Michael terrified her when he came home.”
“Could you tell us about your son and what started everything tonight.”
“He came home in a rage. Michael was yelling Karen broke up with him. Karen is his girlfriend. We knew she wouldn’t put up with his temper much longer. Michael can be the sweetest, kindest, young man and for no reason explode. He was five when we noticed it. We dealt with it as he grew older. He would just scream and yell. We ignored him and he cooled down. However, this year he started getting physical with me. My wife and I are trying to get him to see a doctor. So far he refuses.”
“When you said Michael has been physical with you. What do you mean by that?”
“A week ago, Michael had one of his fits. This time he came at me. He slapped the side of my face and shoved me to the floor. Thank God, he has never struck his mother.”
“Mr. Murphy, that will change tonight. The fact your son is suicidal, a threat to himself and others, allows us to transport him to the nearest medical facility for a mental health examination. Afterwards, a judge will determine if your son needs further care. I know that’s a lot of information. We do have a form we will leave with you that goes into a little more detail, then what I just told you.”
“Just a couple more questions? Could you describe the layout of your basement and do you know where Michael might be?”
“The basement is totally unfinished. When you come down the stairs, the laundry area is to your right. There is a card table and chairs. In fact, the last I saw of Michael, he was sitting next to the table. Outside of the furnace and water heater on the far wall, that’s, it.”
“One last question. Is there a chance Michael has a gun?”
“He shouldn’t. I don’t own any.”
“Our dispatch is contacting Lt. Carey. He is our department’s crisis negotiator. Until he gets here, it’s our job to assess the situation. So Officer Baldino and I will be speaking with Michael.”
“Thank you, officers.”
“Mr. Murphy, everything is going to be alright. We need you to catch your breath and do your best to relax. We are here to help your son and cannot do it without your help. Can you do that for us?”
He nodded his head. “Yes.”
I grabbed my mic and radioed our area supervisor. I updated him on the situation and I would attempt to speak with the subject pending contact from Lt. Carey.
I advised dispatch we would switch to our secondary radio channel. My reasoning was it would provide Chris and me with an open channel with our dispatch in case we needed immediate help. Plus, it would not require dispatch to keep the air clear of radio traffic until we advised them the situation was under control.
I told Mr. Murphy to let his wife know what we were doing and stay together. We would let them both know as soon as everything was alright.
Chris and I he went in the side door ahead of Mr. Murphy, who went to be with his wife. While Chris and I stood off to the side of the stairs leading to the basement.
“Chris, this is going to be a tough one.”
“You ain’t kidding.”
“Like I told you before. I will go down and start talking with him. You stay here covering me. I will try to get him to talk. If he says, yes, I want you to come down and stand at the bottom, but don’t let him see you. I will try getting as close as I can safely get to him. My hope is I can get him talking and convince him either to drop the knife or pull it far enough back that I can get it away from him. If not, then it will be Paul Carey’s job. Did dispatch give you any idea how long it is going to take him to get here?”
“At least a half-hour. You have your work cut out for you on this one.”
Looking down the stairwell, it relieved me to see the light was off. The semi darkness offered me some protection.
Chris tapped me on the shoulder. “Good luck, brother.”
I started down to the basement. Chris was standing on the steps leading from the landing to the kitchen. It offered him some concealment and a way to cover me. I didn’t want the two of us fully exposed in basically a narrow hallway. If the kid had a gun, the two of us would be sitting ducks. We both wore body armor, but those only protected your chest and back. This way, I was the only one exposed. I had Chris above for protection.
Chris let dispatch know I was going into the basement to contact the son.
As I made my way down the steps, I could hear Michael talking to himself. When I reached the last one, I peered around the corner fortunately all the basement’s overhead lights were on. I could see Michael sitting only fifteen feet away on a metal folding chair right where his father had last seen him.
He was a big boy, easily six foot five, no shirt, with the butcher’s knife firmly in his left hand and pressed up against his stomach. I could see a little blood on his stomach below the knifes tip.
I THOUGHT, this kid is serious.
I looked around for any weapons or anything besides the knife he could get to if he needed. The only possible weapon was several long glass shards from a broken picture frame. No doubt his girlfriend.
Before I stepped around the corner, I called out to him. “Michael, I am Rick Hanlon, a police officer. Michael, your mom and dad are worried about you. They asked me if I could talk with you? Would that be alright with you?”
“I don’t care.”
I signaled Chris to come down.
Michael just stared at me. I had seen that look before. We called it the thousand-yard stare. Michael, for example. Physically, he was in the basement, but mentally, his mind was somewhere else.
“Michael, could you do me a favor and set the knife down? I would feel a lot better.”
He started crying and yelled, “I can’t. I swear if you get any closer, I will use it.”
I moved back a step. I did not want him to feel threatened.
“Michael, I just want to talk to you. Your mom and dad are worried about you it. That’s why they called us. They love you.”
“You love them, don’t you?”
As soon as he said yes. I noticed his eyes. Michael was looking around. The glare I saw in his eyes when I came around the corner had gone. I was hoping he was coming back to reality.
For me, that was a tremendous relief. I felt I had a chance with him.
Over the next twenty-five minutes, Michael and I had a conversation like a big brother talking with his younger brother.
Much to Chris’s enjoyment was my telling Michael about some of my ex- girlfriends. I heard a slight laugh come from the area where “My buddy” Chris was standing when I mentioned one in particular.
As we talked, Michael slowly moved the knife a little further from his stomach and the grip seemed to loosen. The more comfortable he got talking with me, the closer I moved towards him.
As we headed towards thirty minutes. Dispatch advised Lt. Carey was delayed and would not be there for another thirty minutes. I was not sure Michael would stay calm if we waited any longer. He was fidgeting more, and he was getting shorter with his answers.
If I was going to do anything to help Michael and prevent anyone from getting hurt. I had to do something. I knew my options. Either Michael dropped the knife or I would be forced to knock it from his hand. Chris would take Michael down and cuff him.
As I looked at Michael. In my mind, I asked God for his help.
“Michael, what do you say. Put the knife down and come with me to the ambulance. It really is the best thing for you.”
I held my breath and waited. Chris knew if Michael said no, I would go for the knife. My heart was pounding a million beats a second. Michael just sat there, looking at me.
“Michael, come on. Just drop the knife.”
He just sat there, motionless.
For me, I was ready to go for the knife. I gave him a few more seconds to think. Before, I asked for the third and final time.
I sighed in relief as he let the knife drop to the floor.
“I am ready, Rick. Will you ride with me in the ambulance?”
“Michael, I would, but I think your mom or dad would be better.”
Michael sat in the chair. As I walked towards him, I kicked the knife across the floor. “Michael, I want you to meet my best friend.”
Chris came into view.
“Michael, this Chris Baldino.”
“Hi Michael. What do you think? Rick’s a pretty good guy, isn’t he?”
“He sure is.”
As Michael stood up. I said, “Michael, there is one thing. I don’t want you to get upset, but the EMTs will have to strap you onto the gurney. It is for your safety they don’t want you rolling out on the way to the hospital.”
Chris picked up on it right away.
“You don’t want that to happen to you.”
With that, we walked him outside, his parents followed us out to the ambulance. I told them Michael would like one of you to ride with him.
Mrs. Murphy said she would like to.
After the EMTs got Michael on the gurney. I helped Mrs. Murphy up and inside.
I climbed in and told Michael you will be fine. Just do what the doctor tells you.
“Thanks Rick, you are a good guy.”
As I climbed out, Mrs. Murphy stood up and gave me a hug and thanked me. “Thank you Mrs. Murphy, I appreciate that very much.”
I jumped down and as Chris and I were leaving. Mr. Murphy came up.
“Officers, I can’t thank you enough for what you did for our son and our family.”
Chris and I thanked him and headed to our car. We watched as his car pulled out of the driveway and drove off for the hospital.
Chris got on the radio. “ADAM-10 dispatch, we will be clear Goldberg. Are we clear to come into the station to complete our paperwork?”
“Negative. ADAM-10, we need you to assist ADAM-11 with a fight in progress at Jack’s Bar & Grill at 5th Street and Wilson.”
With a death glare and a tone in his voice that told me he was still pissed. Chris said; “Will you do me a BIG FAVOR from now on keep your big mouth shut about what kind of night it was going to be.”
When I got home, it was the usual school day. For me, that morning was just a bit more special. Seeing my boys at the table eating breakfast. I made the rounds, hugging each of the three. Little kisses on their cheeks. Maxine, our yellow lab, was there waiting for her turn.
Last was my wife. Denise was getting lunches ready. I put my arm around her and gave her a big hug and kiss on her neck.
“Why Officer Hanlon, that was an extra special hug and kiss.”
“Just want my sweetie to know I love her.”
“I love you too.”
With that, mom and dad had to put up with a chorus of comments from the boys.
I told Denise I had to change and get to bed. I would have to be up by noon. I had court at one o’clock.
“You will not get much sleep today.”
“I know, I will lie down after dinner for an hour.”
I headed to our room and changed for bed. I came back to the kitchen and hugged the boys and told them to be good at school.
Denise told me I will tuck you in. She followed me to our bedroom.
“Rick, how was work? You look a little tired.”
“No, I am fine.”
“Anything exciting happened last night?
“No, just another night.”
* This is based on an actual run that I handled. The only differences are the names. location. The dialogue is recreated as best as I can recall.