By Claire Walla
On Monday, November 21, the East Hampton Emergency Services (ES) team faced a dangerous situation: a man identified as being unemployed, despondent, intoxicated, suicidal and armed with a handgun had barricaded himself inside a waterfront home on Redwood Road, just outside Sag Harbor Village.
Nearly 20 ES officers — weighed down by heavy protective gear, wearing gas masks, and armed with shields, guns, pull cameras, brake-and-rake tools and a battering ram—were on the scene to try to stop him from causing any harm to others, or to himself.
After a series of calculated maneuvers, police finally apprehended the suspect and, wearing a hooded sweatshirt and black protective facemask, he was handcuffed and led to a truck where a member of the ES team was waiting.
“How you feeling?” the officer asked.
The suspect took off his helmet before responding: “Pretty snotty,” he said with straight face, and his handcuffs were promptly removed.
That’s right, it had all been just a drill.
According to Sag Harbor Village Police Sergeant Paul Fabiano, who organized Monday’s practice drill, the ES crew came here for the mock routine because, as luck would have it, this single-story house at the southern end of Redwood Road is scheduled to be demolished sometime in the near future. So the fact that officers blew-out windows, filled the residence with gas — “inert today,” Fabiano noted — and battered down the door is almost a non-issue.
“We’re practicing techniques to take control of the house from the exterior,” he continued.
The noxious gas is used to manipulate the situation inside, ideally working to sway the suspect to an easily identifiable area within the structure. In this case, Fabiano said the suspect — just a volunteer, and none of the descriptors used above — was told not to come out of the building after the gas was used.
“They had to force entry,” Fabiano added.
Neighbor Richard Kudlak was standing at the edge of his property by the tail end of the ordeal, taking pictures as the scene unfolded. Unlike those who unknowingly happened upon the cluster of cop cars or heard a police voice blaring from the ES bullhorn, Kudlak had been informed of the drill.
As to whether or not it put him ill at east to see so many cops in riot gear, he seemed unfazed. But, had this had been a real-life scenario, he added: “the degree of tension would be amplified by 10.”