WAVE 3 Investigates: The challenges faced by SWAT team officers
By Mark Schnyder
LOUISVILLE (WAVE) -- A recently retired hostage negotiator spoke with WAVE 3 about Monday's apparent suicide-by-cop incident at National City Bank near West Buechel. As WAVE 3's Mark Schnyder reports, it's a situation that turns the police into victims by forcing them to shoot someone only to find out later wasn't really a threat.
John Mills knows some of the SWAT officers now on administrative leave personally. As the former commander of the Hostage Negotiation Team, Mills says he knows from experience the no-win situation the officers were put in.
"This man wanted to die," says Mills based on what he's seen and read in news reports.
But the retired Metro Police Lieutenant says that doesn't mean cops wanted to kill Guy Ray the third. He knows they didn't.
"These officers are not cowboys," says Mills. "These people that train together on a regular basis and when the threat presents itself they had no other choice."
Now eight men -- good cops according to Mills -- are on leave while higher-ups finish their investigation and the shooters get some counseling. While the officers had no choice but to shoot, the reality is they killed a man they soon found out did not have the means to kill them.
"I don't know whether I'd describe it as anger or not, maybe disappointment, again it depends on the psychological make-up of each officer," Mills said.
Mills, who led the hostage negotiation team for about a decade, says while they didn't fire any weapons the negotiating team could be struggling with the outcome too.
"They're talking to this guy and they finally worked out a solution where he'll come out and surrender. Instead of coming out and surrendering, he comes out and points a weapon at the officers and I think emotionally this could also affect the negotiator," says Mills.
Mills says twice in his 35 year career he had to shoot suspects. Each time, he knew it was what he was trained to do in those situations and he was able to move on afterwards. He says he's known some officers who couldn't and ended up retiring early.