Team 5 Officers commended for service after halting suicides
On August 7, three Charleston Police Department Team 5 Officers received commendations from Police Chief Luther Reynolds for preventing two different suicides in the month of May.
On the evening of May 21, Officer Gregory Callaghan responded to a request to assist the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office with a suicidal person. “It was a Berkeley call but their deputy was far off, so they were asking for us to go there,” Callaghan recounted. “So I was getting not only second hand but third hand information.”
The brother of the suicidal man was in another state when he alerted authorities, but was on the phone with his sibling, attempting to talk to him. Upon arrival to the apartment where the attempted suicide was occuring, Callaghan heard both the subject and the brother, who was on speaker phone. “The brother was like ‘he’s choking, he’s choking.’ And my supervisor said ‘go and kick in the door,’” said Callaghan.
He forcibly entered the apartment to find the subject strangling himself with a belt in the closet of the master bedroom. “I get down on my knees and I just start talking to him,” said Callaghan. “I told him ‘I know you don’t know me, but please, please don’t do this. For me.’”
Thanks to the crisis intervention techniques that Callaghan learned in his previous life as a lieutenant in the Albuquerque Police Department, where he retired in 2013, he was able to convince the man to loosen the belt. After exiting the apartment with Callaghan, the man was transported to a hospital by EMS for a psychiatric evaluation.
“Hopefully he’s doing well now,” Callaghan stated about the man he saved.
Two days prior to this event, on May 19, Senior Police Officer Adam Spears and Police Officer Christopher Shaw responded to a similar call on I-526. A man was seen by motorists walking along the busy highway in the middle of the night.
Officer Spears made contact with the subject first. During the resultant conversation, the man told Spears that he had been drinking and that he was suicidal. “It was really Officer Spears that did everything,” commented Shaw about the incident. “He talked to the gentleman, created a good rapport with him, tried keeping him calm, and everything else like that.”
After Shaw arrived on the scene, the officers continued to speak to the man, until he attempted to scale the concrete sidewall of the elevated interstate road. “That’s when Officer Spears was still talking to him,” said Shaw. “I was able to run up and grab him off the ledge and help him to safety. And then we just waited for EMS to come and then he voluntarily went to the hospital.”
Shaw said that, like Callaghan, he’s encountered these calls many times before. “Mental illness is rapidly growing and I think it’s more prevalent now that, as a society, we’re all accepting mental illness and trying to make it better,” he commented.
Team 5 Lieutenant James Byrne recommended the officers for the commendations they received from Police Chief Reynolds. “It was my pleasure to recommend these three officers for commendations,” said Byrne. “Even though they serve with distinction on a daily basis, these particular incidents displayed dedication and a willingness to act with compassion and decisiveness that deserved a higher level of recognition.”