It’s been well over 3 1/2 years ago that Officer Mader put his off-the-charts skill sets in deescalation into action, and saved the life of a guy wanting to do a suicide-by-cop, well, until another officer just shot the guy three times to the body and once to the head (the latter being the instant kill shot). Then Officer Mader was fired for not firing his gun himself. Mader went on to win a $175,000 settlement for wrongful termination. But then he had to move out of his hometown as the harassment was too great for he and his family. “He’s a coward!” it was said. No. Deescalation is not cowardice. It is supreme bravery if the circumstances were right. It just seems that the officer who arrived in media res might have asked what the deal was. Maybe he did. I wasn’t there.
I would like to share just a couple of incidents about deescalation, one related to me by a Sheriff who did the same as Officer Mader as told to me by that Sheriff himself, and another I personally saw during a heavily armed incident. Both stunning stories. I do this because I’ve seen the same off-the-charts skill sets in deescalation more recently. Hugely impressive. Let’s start with something I saw myself:
 The above picture is the entrance to the Fijian Parliament. I was there in the year 2000 taking over the courses for the chair of the Scripture department of the Pacific Regional Seminary which is situated to the right just some hundreds of yards away. The problem was that all the students, staff, faculty and administration to a man, to a woman, had all fled as far away as possible, even to their own countries, to avoid a somewhat violent coup d’état with 21 hostages, members of the parliament, including the Prime Minister, that was taking place in the parliament itself.
Being left behind, as it were, and being behind the last military check point, left to the whims of the hostage takers, I decided – me being me – to read all of the Bible, cover to cover, writing marginal notes and cross indexing everything in my mind and on those pages, all while walking the surf on that southeastern seaboard of the tiny country, directly in front of the parliament. :-)
Sometimes I would end up walking along the road that bordered the sometimes too violent surf, even right at the entrance of the parliament itself, even when some of the hostage takers were also out front on the road. At that point, the side of the road sported a smoking, ashen, burned out fruit bar / restaurant, and now mounting skeletons of cattle the hostage takers had been eating. Deescalation skills came in handy a number of times when I was approached. There were plenty of murders around the mostly peaceful country in now extremely tense times.
Then, just from the POV of the picture above, I saw a dozen soldiers on the one side and a dozen on the other aggressively walk-running toward each other just at this point. They all had their rifles brandished in front of them, pointing at each other, yelling whatever it is that one yells in such a situation. I ran to the left of the picture, trying to get cover from any violence that seemed sure to break out, but I must say that I had a front row seat to what would now follow. There were plenty of bullets that would zip through the seminary grounds (also right next to me, repeatedly… ah… that sound of bullets passing by your head…), so it wasn’t as if anyone was hesitant about pulling the trigger for any or no reason.
When they came together I witnessed the most incredible restraint-as-deescalation I have ever seen or can ever imagine seeing. Both sides did a kind of dance in which they would lunge at each other in the air – pointing their rifles directly at the opposition – only to drop their rifles mid-air (still secured by slings) so that their hands were free to grab the ends of the barrels of the rifles of the enemy soldiers pointing right at them. There would be a tussle for the control of weapons, but then the lunger would retreat having yelled some choice words. After some long minutes of this – and it started to get boring even as they got tired of this surreal dance – the verbal assaults turned into a somewhat more intelligible back and forth between the two leaders of the clashing parties. Surely these were demands being made and such like, you know, like delivering pizza, or re-writing the constitution. The Fijian way. Everyone knows everyone. Everyone went to school with everyone. Everyone went through United Nations military training with each other.
In other words, it’s alright to know your enemy, what he will and will not at all do in certain situations. No one was going to fire a weapon in such a situation. Zero chance. Is deescalation by restraint allowed? It can be dangerous, but yes. There may be a life or two lost here or there because of misreading of certain signs or subterfuge about the same, but hundreds or thousands of lives may be saved because of that restraint.
 But even more to the point, let’s take a more local law enforcement suicide-by-cop attempt that took place somewhere here in Western North Carolina (I know exactly where) and told to me by the Sheriff involved, who did the same thing as Officer Mader in the video above. That Sheriff has been reelected many times.
What happened was that the perp had purposely caused a scuffle in town, waiting for law enforcement to show up. It was the Sheriff himself. The perp ran to the nearest creek, some 1,600 feet. The Sheriff caught him, but he broke loose and jumped in the creek, now brandishing a gun and shooting “at” the Sheriff. I put “at” in scare quotes because the shots were way wide. The Sheriff immediately understood that the guy meant him no harm, but was wanting a suicide-by-cop. The Sheriff then went in after him, the perp continuing to pull the trigger, firing more shots “at” the Sheriff. The Sheriff simply tackled him, took the gun, and dragged the perp to the river bank, cuffing him and marching him back into town. The guy goes to jail. A year later, the perp asked to see the Sheriff, who went to see his “assailant.” Sure enough, the perp admitted he had been attempting to do a suicide-by-cop, and thanked the Sheriff for having saved his life with restraint as deescalation. Amazing.
The thing is, you have to keep level headed in such situations. You have to have lots of scenario training, including suicide-by-cop training. Not having that doesn’t make for a happy ending. But sometimes there are those who are super trained up:
So, however sad the situation, that was really funny. Hahahahaha. Sorry, I played this multiple times. I laughed every time.
I mean, just think about it. How many suicide-by-cop incidents, with the perp brandishing a gun, have resulted in no one being injured. Quite a few. Remember the one in which the guy just sat in a chair on the middle of a road after a spat with his girlfriend and brandished a gun? They didn’t shoot him. They knew what was going on. They quietly got a sniper in place. The sniper guy shot and hit the trigger mechanism of the gun, making the gun fly out of his hands. The perp guy didn’t even lose any fingers. But maybe some departments don’t have snipers, etc., etc. I know. I know.
And, yes, I know, all cases are different and very many times you do have to pull the trigger on someone regardless of what they say or do signifying a suicide-by-cop attempt. They are just too dangerous, too out of control, too wild. It is what it is.
Analogy with all matters spiritual in evangelization: Do we ever dismiss anyone ever because they seem to have gone too far, that they are too far gone? It’s not to be done. Our Lord is working on everyone. As long as we are alive, that in itself is proof that our Lord is giving us a chance to get to heaven.