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Police confront man threatening to shoot them

De-escalation training helps in tense confrontation

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At five minutes past midnight Monday, Pettis County 911 Joint Communications received a call of a domestic disturbance in the 100 block of West Avenue. As officers raced to the scene, dispatch alerted them the male suspect had stated he would shoot officers in the head if they showed up at his house. The original call of the domestic disturbance was made even more tense with the threat of a shootout.

Detective Mark Cherry with the Sedalia Police Department knows the department’s officers can de-escalate emotionally charged situations after over 1000 first responders in the area, especially police officers, have had CIT, Crisis Intervention Training. 

Cherry described the initial call.

“It came in from the family and the officers responded and they got in contact with the person outside,” Cherry said. “They gave him verbal commands. He was argumentative.”

Holding a gun, 31-year-old Matthew L. Barkacs, who lives at the residence, was intoxicated and dangerous. Multiple officers reviewed their options in dealing with the threatening man.

“It depends what's going on and what the danger level is for the officers,” Cherry said. “Sometimes it's just direct orders. If the opportunity presents itself and if it's not immediately dangerous or extremely dangerous, they can start communicating and establish a relationship with that person and get them to start de-escalating. We try to do that; sometimes we can, sometimes we can't.”

Multiple officers shouted verbal commands for Barkacs to surrender and he eventually complied and was taken into custody peacefully.

“Fortunately, in this particular case, the person complied with commands, and they were able to de-escalate it just through direct commands,” Cherry said.

Barkacs was taken into custody and has been charged with unlawful use of a weapon, armed criminal action, and unlawful possession of an illegal weapon. He has been issued a $10,000 bond, cash or surety.

The CIT-trained officers didn’t just arrest Barkacs but also tried to get help for the man and his family by referring them to available help immediately.

“In this particular case, they finished that call and there was a report written and then a referral was made for somebody to contact that person, sometimes even in the jail, to be like, ‘What brought this on? Why did this happen the other day? Is there anything that we can do to help you?’” Cherry said. “Whether it be marriage counseling, whether it be alcohol abuse issues that they can help them with and get them counseling, that way we try to keep these types of crimes from reoccurring with the same people over and over.”

For Cherry, CIT is about recognizing the larger problems people are experiencing that are causing criminal behavior and addressing them without confrontation, if possible.

“That's another piece,” Cherry said. “CIT and de-escalation isn't solely for somebody that has mental health issues. It's crisis intervention, so, therefore, if you go into a domestic, that's a crisis, to de-escalate that. It could be a bipolar issue, or it could be a domestic issue, or it could be a culmination of all three of those together. But the sole purpose is to get that scene settled down, so the use of force is at the lowest level.”

The detective is glad Monday’s confrontation ended peacefully and those who can help the family involved have been alerted.

“It went very well, nobody got hurt,” Cherry said. “There was a referral done and there's gonna be some follow-up done with that family through Burrell (Behavioral Health).”

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