Video: Officer Attempts to Deescalate and Gets Stabbed in the Neck

By Jim Glennon  |   Oct 14, 2020
After a short chase, a deputy caught up with the man and tried to keep him calm and deescalate. But once the deputy went to handcuff the man, he produced a knife and stabbed the deputy in the neck.

The title may imply that I’m discouraging officers from attempts of deescalation when dealing with disturbed and/or emotionally charged individuals, which of course is not true.

Calibre Press has courses that specifically deal with deescalation; how to accomplish it and the need to make attempts to do so.

That said, deescalation is not a magic word or phrase. It shouldn’t be attempted all of the time and officers need to recognize and respond accordingly when deescalation measures are becoming both dangerous and counterproductive.

In short, not everyone can be deescalated and at times, attempts should be discontinued.

None of that is to say the deputy in this particular incident did anything at all wrong. In fact, from beginning to end the deputy did an admirable job. From his communication skills to his actions, decisions and composure after he was stabbed, the deputy needs to be commended.

That said, as in every incident captured on video, training points are to be found.

While the video available doesn’t show the nearly hour-long interaction with the 21-year-old, the portion after he fled on foot from the officers is well worth watching.

Summary of the Events

On Sunday, October 11th Hillsborough County, Florida deputies responded to a home to assist behavioral healthcare workers with their evaluation of a 21-year-old man.

The man initially cooperated with deputies and the others. After an hour or so of discussion however, the professionals decided the man needed to be involuntarily committed as he indicated he may harm himself or others.

Upon learning he would be committed, the man ran into a wooded area. The deputy in the video ran after him while another deputy went to his police cruiser to follow in the vehicle.

The video begins when the deputy caught up to the emotionally disturbed man, who was obviously winded.

The deputy initially asked him, “Why are you running, dude?”

Danger Cues

The man didn’t answer, but watching the video some body language cues become obvious.

First, the man was bladed away from the deputy with his left hand hidden, apparently purposely.

The deputy, maintaining distance, then attempted to engage the man in some sort of conversation.

“Are you scared?” the deputy asked.

The man answered, “Yeah.”

The deputy tries to assure the man that he wasn’t in any sort of trouble but that he had to handcuff him for transport.

At this point the man starts to scan, looking right, then left.

Scanning is an indicator. Usually, when someone is scanning, they are looking for one, two or all of three things: escape route, witnesses and/or backup.

Calibre Press suggests that upon seeing someone scan you should do two things immediately.

  1. Check their hands
  2. Address the behavior verbally: Call them on it

An Attempt at Control

The deputy then approaches the man and grabs at his right bicep area and the man immediately starts to pull away.

In the literal blink-of-an-eye the man pulls a knife and swings it at the deputy, stabbing him in the neck area.

The deputy moves and immediately screams.

The man then runs again. Though wounded, the deputy pursues and yells for him to stop.

As always in such situations, the attack was quick, dynamic, confusing and rapidly evolving.

The deputy rightfully points a gun at the man but when he gets close enough, he assesses that it is safe to pull out his taser and use it to subdue him.

This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the deputy did not want to take a life. He was willing to risk his own against a knife-wielding subject.

That is courage. Though some will question his tactical decision, that decision is his to make.

Due to the ever-changing behavior of the disturbed 21-year-old, the deputy at one point has both his taser and his sidearm out at the same time. While dangerous, given that hand confusion might cause the wrong hand to grasp resulting in an accidental firearm discharge, the deputy manages the situation successfully.

The man was cuffed and the deputy, who maintained his cool and professional demeanor throughout, was treated on the scene by other deputies.

The 21-year-old was evaluated, released, arrested, booked and charged.

The deputy was hospitalized, treated, released and is expected to make a full recovery.

[Rewatch the video.]

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Jim Glennon
Lt. Jim Glennon (ret.) is the owner and lead instructor for Calibre Press. He is a third-generation LEO, retired from the Lombard, Ill. PD after 29 years of service. Rising to the rank of lieutenant, he commanded both patrol and the Investigations Unit. In 1998, he was selected as the first Commander of Investigations for the newly formed DuPage County Major Crimes (Homicide) Task Force. He has a BA in Psychology, a Masters in Law Enforcement Justice Administration, is the author of the book Arresting Communication: Essential Interaction Skills for Law Enforcement.