Rather than using firepower, a Payson Police officer was able to subdue a violent suspect with the 50,000 volts of electricity from a tazer Saturday night.
"The tazer is a device that changes the electrical impulses that go back and forth from the spinal column to the brain," Payson Police Lt. Don Engler said. "It interferes with that process and gains compliance -- it stops the person from fighting."
Officers were asked to do a welfare check on a 25-year-old man with a history of mental illness who was distraught due to a disagreement with his girlfriend earlier that evening. According to the subject's mother, who called police, the man had been drinking heavily and was on several psychiatric medications, Engler said.
Officers eventually located the man as he was entering his residence on East McKamey.
According to the police report, the suspect got a six-inch knife from the kitchen and held it to his throat, threatening to commit suicide. He then started toward officers telling them to get out of his house, intermittently pointing the knife at them.
With weapons drawn, officers repeatedly asked the man to drop the knife.
Eventually he threw the knife into a flower bed and started toward one of the officers. According to the report, Sgt. Rod Mamero and Officer Henry Thomason attempted to gain control of the suspect, wrestling him to the ground.
With the suspect still struggling, Mamero activated his tazer.
"He was intoxicated, on drugs, and mentally unstable. He was irrational and antagonistic the whole time," Mamero said.
Mamero said the man was advancing on officers with the knife.
"The rule in police academy is 21 feet, so they could have shot him then," Mamero said.
A suspect with an edged weapon can attack an officer within a distance of 21 feet. The officer can either back away or be forced to shoot them if they refuse to comply and continue toward them.
The suspect, focused on and yelling at one officer, gave Mamero and Thomason an opportunity to subdue the distracted man.
"We were going to get him handcuffed and he grabs on to a fence. I do an arm strike on his radial nerve that should have made him let go -- it had no effect," Mamero said. "He gets off the fence and the fight's on. We are trying to get him in a wrist lock and all the compliance techniques they teach us and he wasn't feeling any pain. We tried to get him cuffed and he's rolling around and we are rolling around.
"He starts heading back toward his knife and I deployed the tazer and it worked. It dropped him right away and he was unable to fight anymore," he said.
"He rolled over and tried to fight us again and we warned him that if he started fighting again, he'd get tazered again and he complied and let us cuff him."
Sgt. Don Garvin trains officers on use of the tazer.
"If we didn't have that tool, the fight would have continued and the suspect or the officers' risk of being injured would have been high," Garvin said.
Using a stun mode is when the tazer is put directly on a limb and renders that limb useless for a few seconds; full deployment renders every muscle useless.
"We've had hands-on deployment with the tazer before, but this is the first time that the air cartridge had been utilized where the officer didn't have to be physically holding on to the subject. You can actually deploy it at up to 21 feet," Engler said.
The tazer option can reduce risk of injury to everyone involved, Engler said.
"In this case the tazer was deployed from a distance, which makes it safer for the officer and for the subject as well," he said.
Garvin said the instrument has no long-term effects and does not interfere with the cognitive ability of the person who is hit with the tazer.
"It interrupts the signals that move the limbs, but not their thinking process," Garvin said.
The individual can then make a judgment and verbalize that they are surrendering.
After being subdued by the tazer, the suspect was taken to Payson Regional Medical Center for a psychiatric evaluation.
The following day, the he was involuntarily committed to Mountain Meadows hospital in Apache Junction for treatment.
"It prevented this situation from escalating to a point where deadly force may have been necessary," Engler said. "It really is a very valuable tool."