by Lisa Tome
On Monday, March 30, at about 9 a.m., Perryville Police Department received a call for help.
According to the officers involved, it's he kind of call that makes you wish it was your day off.
The suspect, a 43-year-old black male veteran, was suicidal and had a gun. He was at his home on Cole Street off Aiken Avenue. He had called his boss and told his boss that he wanted to end his life. His boss called 911.
Lt. Al Miller, who has been an officer for 35 years, Detective Robert Nitz, an officer for 15 years, and Officer First Class Anthony Lenzi, a 13 year police department veteran, were all working.
"Your training tells you to be careful, use extreme caution," said Nitz.
"You don't want to go on a call - a man with a gun- because you never know. You never know and you have a person threatening to harm himself. Now his attention is drawn to you - the police officer. People want to die but they don't want to kill themselves so they get the police officers to do it," said Miller.
"Be on your A-game. Expect the worst and treat every call as a tactful situation. Have a plan and never let your guard down," said Lenzi.
Nitz was at Perryville High School, doing a follow up to an investigation. Both Miller and Lenzi were at the station on Otsego Street doing paperwork. They all headed to Cole Street, separately.
"I had to find a spot to stop and put my (bulletproof) vest on. My role was support, and to ensure safety for the other officers as the cover officer," said Nitz.
Lenzi was the deisgnated primary officer, he was charged with the task of confronting and talking to the distressed man.
"You get a little sick in the stomach. You are going into the unknown. Does that mean he will kill us?," said Miller who is trained as an FBI Hostage Negotiator. "You pull up and are evaluating the area, seeing if you notice anything suspicious.
Lenzi went to the man's home and gained access. The officer then patted him down, retrieving a loaded .25 caliber semi-automatic pistol from his back pocket.
Nitz took the gun, dropped the magazine out and cleared the weapon.
"He was extremely upset and very apologetic. He kept saying 'don't hurt me, don't hurt me," said Miller. "We kept telling him we want to get you help."
The man was taken to an area hospital for an emergency psychiatric evaluation by Lenzi. Lenzi said he worked to establish a rapport with the man. "I imagined if I were in his situation. I just talked to him," said Lenzi.
Miller said that Lenzi has a soothing voice. "Lenzi was saying 'we're here to help you deal with your problems. We're not going to hurt you or arrest you," said Miller. "It doesn't matter if you are black or white, male or female, we are here to help you."
"Once we got back here (to the station) we talked about how bad it could have gotten - a man with a gun and the three of us. We discussed it to see if there was anything we could have done differently," said Miller.
The officers said that the man's boss, the person who called police, did the right thing.
Lenzi said there is no "routine call."
"In the end, this worked out perfectly. We all cleared the scene safely. We got him help and recovered (and stored) the gun. That means it was a good day," said Lenzi. He also said that people in need of help shouldn't be afraid or ashamed to utilize services including a crisis hotline, police, family members, clergy, or others.
"We're here to protect and serve. We're not here to harm or hurt anyone," said Miller.
Lenzi said the man is receiving treatment but he plans to visit him when he's back at home.
Miller said the suicidal man was under the influence of alcohol. "A lot of people are not working and don't have regular contact with friends or family. An idle mind is the devil's playground," said Miller.