Police disarm suicidal prowler with knife after standoff

Police activity on Dohr and Russell on Tuesday morning. Photo: Kester Allen
Police activity on Dohr and Russell on Tuesday morning: The scene as of about 10:45 a.m. Photo: Kester Allen

A 50-year-old Berkeley man who threatened to kill himself as he held a knife to his throat surrendered to officers early Tuesday morning after about six hours with a police negotiator, authorities said.

The standoff began in the 2900 block of Dohr Street, near Russell Street, just before 4 a.m. Tuesday, said Berkeley Police spokesman Sgt. Andrew Frankel.

Dispatch got a call at that time about a suspicious person or prowler, and officers responded. When police tried to speak with the man, said Frankel, he “pulled out a knife and held it to his own throat and threatened suicide.”

One local resident noticed two fire engines and four police cruisers at Dohr and Russell around 6:50 a.m., and asked Berkeleyside to find out what was going on. By about 7:10 a.m., there were seven police cruisers on the scene. Three hours later, there were three fire engines and 10 police cruisers, he estimated.


Said another neighborhood resident, on Twitter, “we were woken up at 4am by what sounded like someone in the area having a mental break.”

Frankel said BPD sent in a negotiator from its Special Response Team who is also a member of the department’s Crisis Intervention Team, which focuses on de-escalation techniques. When he arrived, he took over for units already on the block.

The man “took an elevated position on a rear exterior stairwell which was difficult to approach safely,” Frankel said. Over several hours, the negotiator convinced the man to surrender a box knife, a second blade and several other “improvised weapons.”

A team of officers entered an apartment at the top of the stairs to try to get the man back down to ground level. But it didn’t work.

“When they opened the door, he broke a bottle and brandished it as a weapon. He then put the bottle to his throat and continued to threaten that he would kill himself,” Frankel said.


Ultimately, officers used foam baton rounds — also known as less-lethal or less-than-lethal force — to get him to surrender. The man was taken into custody at the bottom of the stairs.

Frankel said the man was placed on a psychiatric hold and is set to be arrested on suspicion of brandishing, resisting arrest and prowling.

Police ultimately determined that the man was not a resident of the block.

His name was not available pending the psychiatric evaluation due to privacy laws related to medical issues.

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