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Departments : Shots Fired

Shots Fired: Las Vegas, Nevada 02/18/2009

Lt. Randy Sutton had to make a fateful decision when a suicidal man left him no other choice.

May 15, 2012  |  by - Also by this author

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Photo: iStockPhoto.com
Photo: iStockPhoto.com

Having just returned from a business trip, John Haines decided to take his wife, Sarah, out to dinner. Things went well that evening of Feb. 18, 2009, until the meal's conclusion when John decided that he wanted to stay out drinking. Sarah told him not to come home.

Sarah's reservations about John's drunken return were not without foundation. The effects of alcohol on her husband's disposition, particularly when combined with his prescription medications, was something she'd become all too familiar with in recent months. To hedge her bets, she threw John's suitcases on the front lawn. What she hadn't known at the time was that one of the suitcases contained two handguns.

John returned to his house on Golden Talon Avenue in Las Vegas at 10:30 p.m., found the suitcases, and opened them. Retrieving the firearms, he walked to his front door and knocked on it. At the sight of her husband standing on the front porch holding a gun to his head, Sarah dialed 911.

Officers of the Las Vegas Metro Police Department were dispatched to the scene.

Sarah told John Las Vegas' finest were en route. He retreated to his front lawn. John had a blood alcohol level of .21 percent and a good amount of methadone coursing through his system. So it's small wonder that the thought of a curbside respite seemed appealing to the 30-year-old. He plopped down behind a parked car and placed a call to his father on his cellular phone. He remained there sitting on the curb for the better part of the next 30 minutes, apprising his father of the events that he'd put into motion.

Las Vegas Metro PD patrol personnel arrived on scene within a few minutes of Sarah's 911 call. They effected a containment of the suspect and the location. Several officers—some with long guns—took cover positions about the scene as a crisis negotiator, Officer Jeremy Landers, initiated a one-on-one dialogue with John.

For the moment, everything was as good as could be expected. Yes, the man was armed and distraught. But John Haines was bottled up and the only immediate threat he posed to anyone was the man he had the guns trained on: Himself.

Command Decision

As both the shift and area commander that evening, Lt. Randy Sutton had been monitoring the situation from the time the call was dispatched. He arrived at the scene nearly 15 minutes later, and found John still seated on the curb outside his residence, a gun to each side of his addled head. The negotiator, Landers, was still doing his thing, trying every trick in the book to first gain the man's attention and then his trust. But throughout John remained wholly uncommunicative with anyone save for his father on the other end of the cell phone.

Sutton was for the most part pleased with how things were evolving tactically. But one thing concerned him: Neither the wife nor baby had been evacuated from Haines' house.

Sutton directed a team to enter the backyard of the property and extract Sarah and the child through the back of the house. But the officers had barely entered the backyard when John Haines jumped up from the curb and started running for the front door.

Although he'd been on scene for a mere two minutes, Sutton's hand was already being forced.

22 Rounds

"He is not to get inside the house!"

Sutton's command to inner containment personnel left no ambiguities. Too many suicidal men had proven susceptible to the notion of taking loved ones with them, and with two firearms at his disposal Haines was more than capable of doing the same.

The same professionalism that had guided each and every officer on containment did not abandon them, and at the moment when Sutton was about to reach the front door, those officers with a viable shot took it. Of the 22 rounds fired a split-second later, seven found their mark.

Tags: Las Vegas Metro PD, Shots Fired, Suicide by Cop, Deadly Force


Comments (6)

Displaying 1 - 6 of 6

Tom Ret @ 5/17/2012 5:31 PM

Good call Lt. Your decision very likely saved two lives.

Lt. Robert Tester @ 5/17/2012 7:10 PM

Did what you had to do. Good judgement call, especially under all the stress of the moment. I am 99.9% sure if you hadn't made that call the wife and child would be dead.

William @ 5/18/2012 1:41 AM

Unfortunately in this case, like so many other situations involving the use deadl physicaly force, the decision is not really that if the police. LT.Sutton and the other officers on scene reacted to the only choice remaining.
Lt. Sutton's decision was usurped by the emotionally disturbed person.

Jim @ 5/18/2012 2:42 AM

Randy, you did what had to be done and quite probably saved the lives of two innocents that night. A very hard thing to actually order the death of another but sometimes that is the proper action to save lives. I am very proud of you, not only for the actions you took that night, but for you continued involvement in creating a website to help those Officers who also have to make that terrible dicision to fire their weapon and probably end someones life.

R. G. Montgomery @ 5/18/2012 5:11 AM

Good call, good work, Lieutenant. Nasty business, but not of your making or choice.

Good work to all the supporting officers who did not fire '...because everyone else was shooting'. Fire discipline is a worthy goal and a valued skill.

Lieutenant, good work in your website. I wish you a long a enjoyable retirement.

BLB @ 7/12/2012 3:38 PM

This was my cousins (Sarah) husband. I had just met him 2mo. earlier. Seemed very nice. Could not of imagined anything like this going down... Heard he was a good dad, who just had a bad day.

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