Two Ithaca Police Department officers were assaulted by a male subject at 100 East Seneca St. while assisting in serving a mental health order on Friday afternoon, according to a media release by IPD.
After a request by a local mental health provider to locate the subject so he could be taken to a local hospital, officers found him in a business’ lobby, the release said. There, officers tried to talk to the subject, but he was “disruptive and hostile” toward them and “repeatedly threatened to kill the police officers and continuously begged the police officers to kill him,” according to the release.
When officers attempted to handcuff the subject, he “punched one officer in the face” and attacked another, causing the officers to fall, the release said. Officers “repeatedly” told the subject to put his hands behind his back and used a taser multiple times, but the subject “continued to punch and kick and scream at the officers to kill him.”
At one point, the subject grabbed the butt of one officer’s holstered handgun and said the officers would have to kill him or he would kill them, according to the release.
The subject was handcuffed “after several minutes” of the struggle, the release said.
According to the release, an ambulance took the subject to a local hospital to fulfill the mental health order’s mandate, and the two IPD officers went to a local hospital for their injuries.
IPD did not release the name of the subject because “he has not been charged with a crime at this time,” according to the release, and IPD is working with the Tompkins County District Attorney’s Office to determine charges.
Chief of Police Pete Tyler emphasized in the media release that officers must be prepared to handle situations like Friday’s assault.
“It is no secret that police officers have a dangerous job,” he said. “Officers have to prepare to effectively deal with the unknown and the unexpected, and to do so with professionalism and within the confines of the laws that govern use of force and subject control.”
“We never know when a simple everyday encounter with someone can turn into a life or death situation,” he added.
Tyler commended the officers for acting “professionally” and for “preventing a potentially tragic outcome.”
“In this extremely dangerous incident the dynamics quickly changed from a casual encounter to deciding whether to use deadly physical force after the offender repeatedly tried to grab the officer’s gun,” he said. “ … I’m very proud of [the officers’] actions and I hope this incident promotes healthy discussions on how mental health issues impact law enforcement in our community.”