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Officers use non-lethal force with knife-wielding man

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At 4:03 a.m. Monday, Officers Schmitt and Stevenson of the Sedalia Police Department were called out to a disturbance in the 200 block of West Sixth Street.

A 24-year-old man was intoxicated, armed with a knife, and refused orders to drop it.

“They're trying to deal with him, and he presents a knife, a very large knife,” Sedalia Police Chief Matt Wirt said Wednesday. “With his violent behavior, they try to take him into custody and he, of course, struggles with them they ended up using a Taser to subdue him.”

Sedalia police are trained in the use of non-lethal force and employ a variety of techniques to overcome combative individuals.

“Presenting a lethal weapon to a police officer allows the officer to potentially use lethal force,” Wirt said. “However, here at our department, we train to try to use the least amount of force necessary to affect the arrest. We are trying to give our officers all the tools and the training they need to use those items.”

There are always cases where non-lethal options will not work, but in many instances in Sedalia crime enforcement, non-lethal weapons are ideal.

“It is our goal to try to do that, so we have things like pepper spray, batons, and then other things like Tasers and pepper balls that they can use to subdue people to reduce the chances of using lethal force,” Wirt explained.

The man dropped the knife and was easily transported to Bothwell Regional Health Center for care and safekeeping by the hospital. Police are reviewing the case to see if pressing charges is appropriate. 

Wirt said he sees the increase in Taser usage as a sign of members of society being willing to cause problems for police.

“Over the years, the use of a Taser has increased, but we've also seen an increase in more situations where it's needed,” Wirt said. “Tasers, for example, do injure people less than some other means; it's an effective weapon. It's not the answer to every situation, but it is especially helpful.”

Most people know how a Taser works, but not everyone knows why it is used.

“It ends up being two projectiles, two probes, and goes into a person and then it administers the shock,” Wirt explained. “Your hope and your goal is to distract that person and stop that person long enough for you to then get them handcuffed. We use it as a distraction technique, it's not a punishment.”

Highly intoxicated people, like the man in Monday’s incident, don’t deserve to pay too high a price for one night of misbehavior, according to the chief.

“We encounter people that are intoxicated either through alcohol or some level of drugs and they make really poor decisions,” Wirt said. “Our goal is to try to make that poor decision something they have to be held accountable for, but it's not a lifelong poor decision.”

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