Salisbury Police: Officers Prevent Attempted 'Suicide by Cop' - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Salisbury Police: Training Helped Officers Prevent Attempted 'Suicide by Cop'

Posted: 07/18/2017 07:33:00 -04:00 Updated:
Joel Asaiha Hampshire Joel Asaiha Hampshire

SALISBURY, Md.- Salisbury police say the quick thinking and professional training of officers helped prevent a potentially deadly outcome after they came face to face with an armed man attempting "suicide by cop."

Police said that shortly after 10 p.m. July 11, someone called 9-1-1 to report a man who was holding a handgun while sitting at a picnic table at the Woodcock Park and Playground on Riverside Road.

The first officer who arrived on the scene located a man near the picnic table who fit the description provided by the caller.

Police said the officer immediately directed the man, later identified as 19-year-old Joel Asaiha Hampshire of Salisbury, to show his hands, at which point Hampshire began to wave around a handgun.

Police said when the officer ordered Hampshire to drop his weapon, Hampshire replied, “You’re going to have to kill me.”

Authorities said Hampshire then pointed the handgun directly at the officer who, in fear for his life, fired a single round from his service weapon while attempting to run for cover.

Police said Hampshire continued to display the handgun while approaching a second arriving officer and said, “Just shoot me.”

Officers were then able to negotiate with Hampshire, who ultimately dropped the firearm and surrendered, according to police.

Hampshire was not hurt during the incident and no other injuries were reported, police said.

It turned out that the handgun Hampshire displayed was actually a Crossman air gun pistol that looks similar to a real firearm, according to police. 

Police said the handgun displayed by Joel Hampshire, pictured above, was actually Crossman air gun pistol that has features making it nearly indistinguishable from a real firearm.

Police said interviews with several witnesses and body camera footage confirmed the events as described above.

The ensuing investigation revealed it was actually Hampshire who had placed the call to 9-1-1 in order to prompt a response from law enforcement, police said.

Following the incident, Hampshire indicated to investigators that he had been suicidal and intentionally attempted to have the officer shoot him, police said.

Once in custody Hampshire was transported to Peninsula Regional Medical Center for an evaluation. He was later charged with first- and second-degree assault and failure to obey a lawful order. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 10, according to Maryland online court records.

The officer who fired the shot in this incident as Sgt. Richard Engle, a 20-year veteran of department. Police said it was Engle who Hampshire pointed the handgun at, which prompted Engle to fire his gun.

Commenting on the incident, Salisbury Police Chief Barbara Duncan said, “Our officers showed substantial restraint under the extreme duress of this life and death situation. The outcome is a credit to their personal character, quality training and unwavering professionalism."

Duncan said her department's officers receive regular training on recognizing mental health issues and utilizing crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques.

The chief said body camera footage of last week's incident proved invaluable.

"It allowed us to view not only the event itself but the speed of it as it unfolded," she said of the cameras, which the department only started using in 2016. "It also showed that we're hitting the right training needs for our officers as they serve our public."

Last week's incident highlights the need for additional mental health treatment resources and facilities across the country, of which Salisbury is a microsm, according to Duncan.  

"A large portion of our interactions do involve people struggling with mental health issues," she said, adding that often these end up becoming "true safety issues" like what happened in last week's case. 

"I'm so proud of my officers being able to identity what they were dealing with and secondly coordinating like a well-oiled team to ensure they got Mr. Hampshire safely into custody," Duncan said. 

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