A bombshell from the Archie Ingersoll in the Fargo Forum today. Apparently, in the heat of the standoff which resulted in the death of Fargo police officer Jason Moszer, a SWAT team commander wanted negotiators to urge the shooter to commit suicide.
Lt. William Ahlfeldt, who is a team commander with the Red River Valley Special Weapons and Tactics Team, says that ultimately negotiators did not urge Schumacher to kill himself.
Yet that is how he died.
Yesterday the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation released a whole batch of documents related to their investigation of the incident. I obtained them via an open records request, and you can read them all here.
Below is a copy of Ahlfeldt’s narrative mentioning the suicide tactic as well as a BCI agent’s report.
Here’s Ahlfeldt in his own words:
It’s pretty remarkable that a law enforcement professional would forget to include in his report that he a) urged law enforcement officers on the scene to shoot Schumacher on sight at one point and b) urged negotiators to tell Schumacher to take his own life.
The former seems justified to me. The latter? Whoa.
Here’s the BCI mention of Ahlfeldt’s report:
Apparently all this came as news to Fargo Police Chief David Todd who, according to Ingersoll’s report, wasn’t made aware of Ahlfeldt’s tactics.
“I hadn’t heard that one before. That sounds odd to me,” Todd said when asked about the tactic described in Ahlfeldt’s report. “It doesn’t sound accurate to me.
Inaccurate? Ahlfeldt’s description of his own actions seems unambiguous to me.
Maybe this is something the Chief of Police shouldn’t have to learn from a reporter.
Especially when, according to experts contacted by Ingersoll, urging suicide isn’t exactly something SWAT teams and law enforcement negotiators just do:
Ben Tisa is a SWAT operations expert based in San Francisco. He said he’s never heard of a police commander giving negotiators clearance to use such a tactic and that he’s not aware of the tactic being taught in any police negotiation schools.
Tisa said the tactic goes against a negotiator’s typical goal of calming down an unstable person. “The negotiators are there primarily to de-escalate the situation,” he said.
Carole Lieberman, a forensic psychiatrist in Beverly Hills, Calif., also said she’s never heard of such a tactic. “There’s really no excuse for agreeing to encourage him to kill himself,” she said. “It’s extremely unethical.”
I tend to concur with Lieberman. That a commander at the scene of a standoff would be encouraging suicide as a solution seems fantastically out of line.
In all fairness, Lt. Ahlfeldt gave his authorization for this tactic in an extremely tense situation. Officer Moszer had already been shot, and law enforcement officials were taking more fire from Schumacher. It was a tense situation of the sort most of us (thankfully) will never find ourselves in.
But then again, Ahlfeldt is supposed to be a law enforcement professional specifically trained to handle these sort of tense situations.
On a somewhat related note, this narrative from Ahlfeldt’s report of law enforcement officials trying to use multiple robots to enter the Schumacher reads like a farce.
Your tax dollars, hard at work:
Below are the Ahlfeldt and BCI reports. Again, you can read all of the reports from the Schumacher/Moszer incident here.