In a Mental Health Crisis, Training Saves Lives

Culpeper Star-Exponent

By Allison Brophy Champion

A person shot himself in front of Culpeper Police Officer John Slaughter about 15 years ago and it’s something he did not want to relive.

Armed with training from the five-county Crisis Intervention Team of Rappahannock Rapidan Community Services, the 24-year law enforcement veteran was able to diffuse a potentially explosive situation last year that could have easily turned deadly.

“Without my partners behind me, I would not have had the courage to speak to this guy,” Slaughter said Thursday of the incident that unfolded on May 23, 2018, in the parking lot at Culpeper Medical Center. “It’s huge—the trust we have in each other.”

One of those partners was Sgt. Luke Altman, waiting in the shadows to use non-lethal force to take down a 22-year-old man threatening suicide with a loaded shotgun pointed at his head.

For their bravery and cool demeanor in the face of high stress, Slaughter and Altman were named Officers of the Year during Thursday’s first Crisis Intervention Team awards program at the Daniel Technology Center.

The young man they helped save had his finger on the trigger as Slaughter edged closer, trying to calm him down, noted CIT trainer Sgt. Chad Buraker with the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office.

“Officer Slaughter began talking to the 22-year-old face to face,” Buraker said.

The officer shared personal experiences from his own life, building trust while bantering as part of the episode that lasted more than 40 minutes. At one point, the officer and suicidal man laughed together as they spoke about their families and people they both knew.

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