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March 1, 2003

Sign language aids in Westminster police situation

From: Broomfield Enterprise, CO - 01 Mar 2003

A Westminster police officer's ability to communicate with sign language defused a potentially dangerous situation Wednesday morning.

Westminster police were called to a disturbance possibly involving a gun in the 8600 block of Zuni Street. The first officer on the scene found a distraught man sitting in the front seat of his pickup truck outside the residence, according to police reports. The man was holding a lighter in his hands and had a five-gallon gasoline can was wedged between his knees, police said. There was a gas soaked rag stuffed inside the gas can, police said. Officers attempting to communicate with the man discovered he is hearing impaired, police said. According to police reports, the man intended to commit suicide and his frustration was increasing and the situation was quickly escalating.

Westminster Police Officer Wayne Read knows American Sign Language and arrived on the scene with Officer Scott LaChance, Westminster SWAT Team. Westminster police had dispatched additional resources including ballistic shields and the Hostage Negotiations Team members, police said.

Police said the situation was dangerous not only to the suicidal man but also to the officers on the scene and residents in surrounding homes because they were concerned the man would cause an explosion. Read and LaChance approached the man without protection, and Read signed to the man, police said. According to police reports, Read was able to quickly build rapport with the man, calmed him and convinced him to be arrested. The man was taken into custody without incident and arrested for harrassment and disorderly conduct.

"The Westminster Police Department is proud of the actions taken by all employees that responded to the scene, but especially those actions of Officer Wayne Read and Officer Scott LaChance in quickly and decisively de-escalating this situation and averting a tragedy," according to a statement provided by Westminster police.

Copyright 2002, The Daily Camera and the E.W. Scripps Company. All rights reserved.