Police negotiators rise to occasion

When police come knocking at the door around midnight without warning it usually means one of two things: someone has died, or someone is in big trouble.

For Detective Constable Sherry Francella recently, it meant it was time to go to work.

DC Francella was one of two crisis negotiators used by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service to safely diffuse a seven-hour standoff in West Bay last week. Police said an 18-year-old man had barricaded himself inside a home and had reportedly threatened his mother and younger brother.

“He wasn’t coming out,” Detective Francella said. “He was talking about the devil; he said he didn’t trust us. Although he couldn’t see the TAC team he said ‘I know there are guns out there and I know you’re going to beat me up.'”

Ms Francella said the police tried to reassure him.

‘We showed him we didn’t have any weapons.”

Acting Chief Superintendent Marlon Bodden had been on scene since shortly after the situation was reported. He was called in from vacation to help with the negotiation.

“Marlon was on the phone with the kid when I first arrived,” Detective Francella said. “Apparently he held (his mom and brother) in a room for a while, but when instructed by police, he let them go. We were told he had threatened to kill them and poison his brother. He has mental health issues.”

Once the family members were out of the house, the teen became more cooperative, according to detectives. He was eventually encouraged to drop one of the two machetes he was carrying.

Around 1am police made the decision to move closer to the house after satisfying themselves no firearms were inside.

“He wouldn’t come right outside the door,” Detective Francella said. “He put his head outside the door and talked to us that way.”

“What he really wanted was to talk to his mother. So an agreement was made for her to come and talk from a safe distance. He wanted his mother and brother to come in and go to sleep and everybody just to carry on as normal, but we told him that just wasn’t possible.”

After a few more hours, police agreed the situation wasn’t improving and decided to go in.

A police tactical unit entered from the back of the house, while Officers Francella and Bodden went in the front door. The 18-year-old was taken into custody safely.

Detective Francella said by then the teen was relatively calm and wasn’t struggling at all when police took him away in handcuffs.

‘We got a big thank you from the mother…she said police handled it so well,” Detective Francella said. “It was text book.”

Admittedly, the ordeal was exhausting, but Detective Francella said, luckily, standoffs like this don’t happen in Cayman very often.

In fact, in the last instance, which occurred in October 2007, Superintendent Bodden managed to talk a 32-year-old woman down from the top of an airport radar tower. He was credited at that time with saving the woman’s life.

In this case, police were again credited for bringing a happy end to a situation that could’ve gone badly wrong.

Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis said, “I am extremely proud of the professionalism and skills displayed by the officers who brought about a successful end to this volatile incident.’