Original article no longer available
Palatka Daily News
By Robert Morris
An elderly Palatka woman holding a pistol to her head and threatening suicide was shocked by a Taser after a standoff with sheriff’s deputies and taken to a mental health facility Monday, officials said.
The 63-year-old woman, whose name is being withheld by the Daily News to protect her privacy, pointed the gun at officers several times as negotiators tried to talk her out of killing herself for more than an hour, Sheriff Dean Kelly said.
“I’m very proud of the way our guys conducted themselves,” Kelly said by telephone Tuesday. “They showed great restraint and used excellent verbal skills and excellent tactics to bring what could have been a life-ending situation to a safe conclusion.”
Deputies found the woman sitting in a recliner in the living room of her Edgemoor Street home around noon, pressing a .380-caliber handgun to her head, according to the incident report. As they took cover in the kitchen and began instructing the woman to put the gun down, higher-ranking officers arrived and began speaking to the woman, deciding to use their Tasers if the chance arose, the report states.
“Our hostage negotiating people’s immediate evaluation was that she was very probably going to harm herself,” Kelly said. “Time was of the essence.”
On medication for depression and struggling with problems relating to her ailing mother, the woman said she “did not want to hurt anyone but herself and informed us that, if we entered the living room, she would shoot herself,” Deputy J.D Azula wrote in his report. Deputy Randy Hayes convinced the woman to call a relative in Palm Coast and, when she leaned over to find the number, Azula and Hayes fired their Tasers but missed, striking instead some ornaments hanging from the fireplace mantel, the report states.
The woman became upset, fidgeting with the pistol and saying she had its hammer “all the way back,” the report states. She then began moving around the house, pointing the gun at the deputies and at herself and refusing to put it down, the report states. After a second failed attempt, Deputy Mike Soles struck her with the Taser, which “had an immediate effect on (the victim) and she fell backwards, dropping the pistol to her side,” the report states.
The victim was taken to Putnam Community Medical Center for medical clearance prior to being taken to a Gainesville mental health facility and the pistol and a 16-gauge shotgun found elsewhere in the house were taken for safekeeping. Kelly said the men who participated will be commended for their “patience and expertise” in handling the situation, but also credited the Taser in saving the woman’s life.
“It’s that alternate to deadly force,” Kelly said, noting that deadly force against her would have been justified several times during the standoff.
Present during the standoff were 11 members of the sheriff’s office, including Kelly, who said that although he was outside the house at the command post, his men described the woman’s behavior as “irrational and obviously in need.”