Cop of The Week

by Melissa Bailey | June 8, 2007 10:42 AM | | Comments (2)

IMG_8620.JPG“When I heard that click, my heart dropped.” Standing outside an East Rock home, Sgt. Tony Reyes had been talking on the phone to a suicidal man barricaded inside with a loaded shotgun.

His job: To reach out to an unstable, intoxicated man amid a life-changing familial confrontation and guide him safely out the door.

Reyes, who’s 35, got the call around midnight a couple weeks ago. He drove his cruiser to a multifamily home, where two siblings said their brother was threatening to kill himself. When his sister came into the room to talk to him, he loaded a shotgun in front of her. He locked himself in the room. He warned them to stay away or he would “blow through the door.”

An eight-year veteran of the city police force, Reyes had just joined the Crisis Negotiation Unit. This was the first time he’d put his FBI training to the test in a real life situation.

On the street below the third-story apartment, they heard the man yelling. The siblings, who share the apartment with him, said no one was up there with him. They weren’t quite sure what was going on. Cops closed off a portion of the quiet street. Reyes said a little prayer, and, with the help of the family, dialed through to the man’s phone.

“I’m Tony from the police,” said Reyes.

Reyes found the man in the middle of a major confrontation. Running on a dangerous mix of alcohol and antipsychotic drugs, he was embroiled in an argument with his father on the phone.

“He was really angry, really really hyped up,” recalled Reyes at a coffee shop this week, speaking in the soft, calm tones of an expert negotiator, with an ease that belied the harrowing details of the high-stakes episode.

Reyes came to the job with listening skills intact — before he was a cop, he worked with patients with drug addiction. A native of the Hill area of town, he used to work at the Columbus House shelter. “I’ve talked to a lot of people who were at low points in life,” he said. “You try to help them out.”

Reyes asked the man what he was angry about. Out poured an intimate tale of family history, a search for the root of childhood abuse, all coming to a head at that moment in that third-story apartment.

The man told him as a five-year-old, he had been sexually abused by his older sister. He didn’t blame her — he always suspected she herself had been abused by an older man. The abuse, and years of searching for explanation, had helped launch him into schizophrenia and depression. He long suspected his father had been the abuser, but he had never confronted him until that evening.

“He was on the phone to challenge his father about this,” said Reyes. The negotiator knew he had to get the man out of a volatile, potentially explosive situation. He convinced him to hang up with his father and stay on the line with Reyes. Then — he listened.

“You essentially just become a sponge for him at that point — just allowing him to get things off his chest.” They talked about the family, his father, his history. They chatted about good cigars. In time, the man showed signs he was ready to emerge.

“If I come out, are you going to hurt me or harass me?” the man asked Reyes. Reyes pledged there would be no arrests.

“I really need help,” he told Reyes. He said he’d come out only if Reyes promised to get him mental help. They came to an agreement. Then the man said he needed another minute.

“You know what, Tony? I’m going to have another beer and another cigarette and call you back.”

Click.

“When I heard that click, my heart dropped,” said Reyes. “You don’t know what he’s going to do. You’re expecting to hear a boom or something.” Reyes didn’t wait for a call back—he dialed the man again, and heard his voice. He stayed on the phone with him while he opened a new beer.

Reyes knew the man would come out only when he was ready.

“It’s not something you can rush,” said the officer. You try to subliminally control the process, but “you have let them feel they are in control. If you try to assert control, you’re going to lose them.”

They talked a bit more. Then Reyes made a gentle push: “There are a lot of people out here who are worrying about you, a lot of officers out here who are getting bitten by bugs.”

The man agreed to come out. Guided by Reyes, only 20 minutes after the two first got on the phone, he emerged safely with one hand on the phone and the other in the air.

“Oh my God, it was the biggest relief,” said Reyes. “I feel blessed to be able to help him with that point in his life.”

(To read other installments in the Independent’s “Cop of the Week” series, click here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

(To suggest an officer to be featured, click here.)







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Comments

Posted by: JMAC | June 8, 2007 12:23 PM

Gosh, cops love Cosi!

Posted by: andy ross | June 12, 2007 6:31 PM

Good job officer. I am sure this is not the kind of job you can leave at your desk at 5 pm. You must take on so much of what you cannot control. Now is the time for you to feel all of the positve things you do in your job and the rewards it offers. thnak you for your efforts and dedication to helping people.

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