By Stephen Owsinski
Welcoming the new year is typically accompanied by resolutions to effect positive change in our lives. On New Year's Day, one of two brothers in Bunnell, FL, got off to a rocky start for 2015. A suicide-by-cop scenario was abated, thanks to law enforcement officers on scene and their exhibition of incredible restraint and crisis intervention techniques.
Henry Germaine Brock, 25, and his brother, Ben L. Brock III, engaged in an armed confrontation with each other outside their home at approximately 9:45 a.m. on New Year's Day. Neighbors dialed 9-1-1 to report the domestic disturbance. Bunnell police reports indicate that once the first Bunnell policeman arrived on scene, he observed both Brock brothers, one armed with a knife and the other with a knife and glass bottle, squaring off on the front lawn. Back-up from the Flagler County Sheriff's Office arrived.
At gunpoint, the Bunnell police officer commanded the Brock brothers to drop their weapons and lay down on the ground. Ben Brock complied. Henry Brock disobeyed police commands and waved the knife and glass bottle at law enforcement, while yelling for police officials to shoot him.
After repeated commands to drop the weapons, Brock relinquished the knife then fled to a fenceline where he broke the glass bottle and held it to his neck. Again, Brock demanded the police shoot him. As one LEO employed crisis intervention strategies to calm and keep Brock's focus on things other than destructive behaviors, two Flagler County deputies deployed their Tazers, effectively subduing Brock.
Once handcuffed, however, Brock continued a barrage of combative maneuvers against law enforcement officers. Kicking, spitting, and thrashing at the LEOs garnered Brock a host of charges to include Battery on LEO, Assault on LEO, and Resisting Arrest with Violence charges. An outstanding probation violation warrant was also served Brock.
Post-arrest, Brock was transported to a nearby hospital for medical clearance. Once again, Brock exhibited a tirade and belligerence against police and hospital security personnel. One of the police officers on scene at the hospital was spat on, reaping another Battery on LEO charge.
Coined in 1983 by policeman-turned-suicide-hotline operator, Karl Harris noticed some members of society seemed to be using police as instruments to end their lives. For some, goading cops to shoot them became a self-fulfilling prophecy. However common the lexicons "suicide-by-cop" and "police-assisted suicide" are bandied about, concrete data of occurrence still eludes. A 1998-study published by the FBI indicated 16% of all officer-involved shootings stemmed from suicide-by-cop episodes.
In 2009, the Journal of Forensic Science claimed 36% of its study involving 707 officer-involved shootings resulted from police-assisted suicide scenarios. The JFS-analyzed data did not include jurisdictions or incidents outside the United States.
Does your agency chronicle its suicide-by-cop incidents?
In a 2010 article in POLICE Magazine, Dean Scoville sums up suicide-by-cop incidents quite well: "When you consider that 80 percent of the time the suicidal person is armed with a weapon—and 60 percent of the time the weapon of choice is a firearm—it is a wonder that officers are able to resolve any of these situations without the use of deadly force, let alone establish the appropriate psychiatric intervention."
In the Brock case in Bunnell, law enforcement utilized tools ranging from deadly firepower of a service weapon to less-lethal Tazers. Dialogue was implemented according to training protocols. By exhibiting significant restraint and professional resolve (while their own lives were endangered), law enforcement officers on scene averted a would-be suicide-by-cop tragedy and saved a young man's life.
In a time of significant tension and cynicism harbored by some of the public, with widespread anti-police sentiments, this particular incident exemplifies the chronic dangers and life-threatening episodes encountered by law enforcement figures. What could have easily transcended into a suicide-by-cop was reduced to an arrest, no discharge of firearms, and no injuries to police, suspects or bystanders. The ordeal culminated in a safe return home for all on scene, except for one participant whose actions equated to ringing in the new year at county jail.