By BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News
(JACKSON TOWNSHIP, Ohio) — An Ohio police officer is being praised for showing restraint and providing a textbook example of his de-escalation training to peacefully end a standoff with an alleged armed robber who was threatening to kill himself, telling the suspect, “You’re too young, bud.”
Police body camera footage showed the Jackson Township officer, whose name was not immediately released, talking the suspect into putting down his gun and surrendering.
The episode came in sharp contrast to numerous high-profile incidents nationwide when law enforcement officers have come under criticism, and several criminally charged, for quickly resorting to the use of deadly force.
“The officer did do a fantastic job, there’s no question about that. I’m very proud of the way our guys handled that situation,” Jackson Township Police Chief Mark Brink told ABC News on Tuesday.
The incident unfolded just after 3 p.m. on Saturday when officers responded to a report of a robbery at a Dollar General store in Jackson Township, which is about 5 miles northwest of Canton, according to a statement from police.
Police said a woman who witnessed the robbery followed the suspect as he drove away from the store and reported his whereabouts to police.
At one point, the suspect, identified as 20-year-old Rashawn Harper of Tennessee, noticed the witness following him and allegedly opened fire on her car, striking it on the side, police said.
“He’s shooting at me! He’s got a gun!” the 51-year-old witness was heard telling a dispatcher in a 911 call obtained by ABC News affiliate WEWS in Cleveland.
Officers found the suspect’s car abandoned in front of a home, police said. An occupant of the residence told police the suspect ran through their backyard toward a golf course, according to the statement.
When officers caught up to the suspect, he was “sitting on a bench with a gun to his head,” the police statement reads.
Brink said all of his officers are trained in crisis intervention, and specifically taught how to deal with distraught or mentally ill suspects.
“It was a tough situation. The young man had just shot at a car,” said Brink, adding that during the investigation, police learned the suspect had also approached a man and allegedly threatened him with a handgun.
Instead of resorting to deadly use of force, the officer de-escalated the situation by calmly negotiating with the suspect to put down the gun, according to body-camera footage obtained by WEWS.
“We can help you, dude. We’re not going to hurt you. I promise you we are not going to hurt you. Put it down,” said an officer, who joined the Jackson Township Police Department as a part-time member in 2016 and became a full-time officer in September 2017.
During the standoff, Harper told the officer that he had stopped taking his medication for a mental disorder. The officer promised Harper that he would get him a therapist if he put down the gun.
“You toss that gun out of there. I put mine away, and I’ll come talk to you. I promise you. We can help you. It’s not the way,” the officer told Harper, according to the footage.
As they continued to speak, Harper told the officer his age, the video shows.
“Come on, bud, you have to talk to me. Dude, you’re 20. You’re still so young. Let’s go, dude, we don’t want to do this. Just put it (the gun) down, bud. We don’t want to do it. You don’t want to do it. You’re 20,” the officer said, according to the video.
Brink said the officer negotiated with Harper for three to five minutes before he put the gun down. The officer continued to console Harper even as he was handcuffing him.
“What’s up, dude? Look at me. What’s going on?” the officer asked.
Harper responded, “I made terrible decisions,” according to the video.
When asked why he allegedly committed the robbery, Harper said, “I didn’t want to do what I did.”
Harper remained in custody on Tuesday in the Stark County Jail on charges of aggravated robbery and felony assault. He was also charged with carrying a concealed weapon, aggravated menacing, obstructing official business and possessing a stolen gun.
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