LINCOLN, Maine — Police Chief Scott Minckler commended one of his officers Tuesday for disarming a suicidal resident armed with a .38-caliber police special handgun during an incident at a Rin Tin Tin Road home last week.
Like Minckler, Officer Jeff Rice sought refuge and held his fire when the very intoxicated resident opened his front door and waved the gun in the officers’ general direction shortly before 9 a.m. March 23, the chief said.
Rice “did an outstanding job. He showed great restraint in a highly stressful situation,” Minckler said Tuesday. “I don’t believe he [Rice] would have had a legitimate case to fire [in self-defense]. The person was pointing the gun in our general direction, not right at us.”
Police have the right to use deadly force if they believe their lives, or the lives of others, are in danger, but Minckler said that might have been difficult to prove unless the person, whom he declined to identify, had pointed the handgun directly at the officers.
Rice was off Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.
The incident began when the individual called 911 at about 8:45 a.m. and said he was suicidal. Penobscot Regional Communications Center dispatchers sent Rice to the address. Minckler said he followed when he heard the call.
Rice knocked on the door. No one answered, but he heard noises indicating that someone might be inside the residence, so Rice called for an ambulance and searched the perimeter before Minckler arrived, Minckler said.
When the chief arrived, both decided they should force the door, as they feared that the person inside already might y have harmed himself. Rice was about to kick in the door when Minckler, who had gone around to the back door, saw the person standing in his living room holding the weapon.
Minckler said he immediately yelled, “Gun!” and Rice went for cover. Minckler joined him in the front yard of the residence, and with weapons drawn, the two ordered the person outside. The person came out with the gun and was persuaded to place the weapon at his feet. Minckler grabbed the handgun as Rice went into the house, where the person had fled and collapsed onto the couch, Minckler said.
A search of the premises led to two other guns being found. The officers also found evidence that the person had been drinking heavily, Minckler said.
Judging the person to be in what Minckler called “an altered mental state,” police drove him to Penobscot Valley Hospital of Lincoln, where the person was admitted for treatment, Minckler said. He said he did not know of the person’s status as of Tuesday.